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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)



Reviews and Comments

"Experience has taught me never to trust a policeman. Just when you think one's all right, he turns legit."

With The Asphalt Jungle, John Huston has made one of the most exciting, insightful heist films ever made. The characters that pull it off aren't a gang of evil scheming masterminds, nor a bunch of wisecracking numbskulls. Each person that plays a part in the heist has a sharply defined character and his own agenda. Their interaction is treated like a complex business transaction. Some of the characters are portrayed in a sympathetic light but never a positive one. That doesn't seem to stop the criminals looking less like criminals and more like consummate professionals where evasion of the law is an unfortunate hazard that comes with the job.

"Crime is just another form of human endeavor."

The ensemble cast is almost perfect. There are no A-list stars (unless you count Marilyn Monroe who played a small role in this film prior to her rise to fame), and this is a good thing. It would not have been optimal for the audience to focus too much on any one character, lest they lose sight of the whole.

The dialogue is fantastic, every line is shaped for its speaker. There is a confident, comfortable use of slang that's fun despite being dated because it doesn't draw attention to itself -- it sounds as natural as if it were everyday speech for all of us.

Stark and atmospheric, in glorious, haunting, dreamy black and white, the film received an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography. John Huston was nominated, too, for Best Director. They were well-deserved. The Asphalt Jungle is intelligent and engrossing -- one of the greatest crime films ever made.