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Asphalt Jungle, The

Director:  John Huston
Year Released:  1950
Rating:  3.5

A powerful tour-de-force for most of its running time, Huston’s classic The Asphalt Jungle showcased hoods as antiheros and set in motion America’s (and France’s) obsession with gangsters and the seedy underbelly of crime and corruption. It still holds up - Sterling Hayden and Sam Jaffe are fantastic as two of the bank robbers bent on stealing diamonds and “leaving the city” to live in different “parts” of civilization (Jaffe prefers Mexico City … with the girls, Hayden longs for home in Kentucky). Huston’s bit players are all pock-marked sad sacks and freaks, more interested in cats and playing the horses than in “assisting” society, and are most authentic in their roles. I could have personally done without the moralizing and criticizing towards the end (it not only alludes to the moral perversions of the “criminals,” but insists that the “asphalt jungle” is a poor substitute for rural living), as well as the police commissioner’s speech, which stops the movie cold. Other than that, it’s really, really impressive.

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