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The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

By Jack Purdy | Posted

Woody Guthrie said it best: "Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen." The fountain-pen crooks certainly made themselves busy in the New Economy, it seems. Turn for relief to John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle, without which Reservoir Dogs and every other noirish caper movie of the last 50 years would not have been made. Huston's gang, unlike the folks at Enron or WorldCom, have a real sense of honor. Doc Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe, who got an Oscar nom for the role) recognizes that essential honesty in Sterling Hayden's brave and dimwitted Dix Handley, a hoodlum who dreams of owning a horse farm. That's why Doc recruits Dix for a big jewelry heist, along with safecracker Louis Ciavelli (Anthony Caruso) and getaway driver Gus Minissi (James Whitmore, terrific as a cat-loving hunchback diner owner). But the gang doesn't count on the treachery of the weaselly bookie Cobby Cobb (Marc Lawrence) and slick lawyer Alonzo D. Emmerich (Louis Calhern), who's been blowing a bundle on his "niece" Angela (a then-barely known Marilyn Monroe). There are about three gunshots fired in nearly two hours, and no cursing at all, yet this sweaty, monochromatic film bubbles along on a constant undertone of menace and off- kilter sexuality.

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