Another gem directed by John Huston, The Asphalt Jungle is a caper film in it's truest form. The story focuses on a group of "hooligans" planning a jewelry heist. I love a good, suspenseful drama, so felt that this film would be enjoyable, and it was.
The first thing that came to mind as I watched this film was the movie "In Cold Blood." Intense, complex characters, with fates sealed before the opening credits finished rolling. Steven Hayden's performance of Dix Handley was spot on and gut-wrenching as a man who's only known bad luck, but believes his luck is about to change. While it's human instinct to root for the police, I found myself continually rooting for the "villain" Dix over the dirty cops in this picture. Dix' cohorts, however, were none-too likeable. Between the girl-chasing Doc and the two-faced Emmerich, Dix comes off as a decent fella who is just down on his luck.
One thing that continually impresses me is the intensity that John Huston is able to pull from his actors. His characters go through major story and character arcs, and this requires a great deal of dramatization. Huston's actors shift easily from smoking a casual cigarette, to pouring out their hopes and dreams believably, to having meltdowns or even dying. He keeps them so focused on who their characters are at their core that the performances are mesmerizing and credible.
My favorite moment came at the end of the film when the Police Commissioner is giving an interview to the press, speaking about potentially crooked cops in his force. He turns on the police radio, and every station has a report a crime of some sort taking place, calling for police assistance. He states that they send police on every single call, every single day, in every city, in every state. Then he summarizes his plight by simply stating, "Suppose we had no police force, good or bad." He then turns off the radio, and the room is silent. "Suppose we had, just silence. Nobody to listen. Nobody to answer. The battle's finished. The jungle wins. The predatory beasts take over. Think about it."
Well done, once again, Mr. Huston.