It’s the biggest heist of their careers. Can they hold it together long enough to pull it off?
Today I’ll be reviewing a film noir classic. The Asphalt Jungle is the story of how the perfect crime goes
awry due to petty jealousies and greed.
Doc Riedenschneider is a criminal specialist, a brilliant thief just released from prison. He approaches an old contact for a loan to finance a crew for a new operation. A big time jewel heist planned with military precision and requiring a team of specialists from all the disciplines of professional crime. Wheelman, safe cracker, alarms, fence and security. All necessary and all with their own costs and weaknesses.
Of course, if everything went according to plan the movie wouldn’t be that interesting. Infighting, personal weaknesses and plain old bad luck oppose the crew at every turn. Even though they are technically the bad guys, Director John Huston does a good job of humanizing the surly crew. They have distinct personalities and motivations.
One man with a wife and family to care for. Another dreaming of taking his girlfriend to his home in Kentucky. A third trying to cover his debts and impress his wife and mistress. For Doc, the mastermind, the loot is almost a second thought. For him, the thrill is in matching wits with the law and proving himself superior.
Doc, the Mastermind
The backstories and motivations intertwine with the main plot organically and provide the seeds for the capers downfall. The whole thing collapses into a maze of conflicting interests as it quickly becomes every man for himself. Don’t expect a happy ending with this one as most of the characters get more than they deserve.
Asphalt Jungle is a classic in the film noir genre. The doomed heist is an often used plot line, but the cast and crew of this production bring enough to the table to make the film worthwhile.
Sterling Hayden and Jean Hagen are great as doomed couple Dix Handley and Doll Conovan. Trapped in the middle of a failing caper, they know they’re trapped but still try their best to escape.
Dix and Doll
Also Louis Calhern as Alonzo Emmerich, playing a sleazy attorney attempting to work all sides against each other.
Emmerich the lawyer. So crooked he has to screw his shoes on in the morning.
For Marylin Monroe fans, she is famously in this picture as Emmerich’s mistress. Her first major role in Hollywood.
The lovely Marilyn Monroe
The camera work is top notch, with the intense light and shadows combined with moody environments typical of the genre. John Huston (Maltese Falcon, Treasure of Sierra Madre, Key Largo) is at the top of his game with this one. Modern caper films such as Ocean’s 11 borrow quite a bit from this classic.
Verdict 4 Gavels out of 5
Great film noir caper film, dark, depressing and moody. Strong characters and typically high John Huston production values make this one a standout.