Asphalt Jungle [1950]

Director: John Huston
Stars: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe
Genre: Crime, Film-Noir, Drama
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 112 minutes

The dark urban world of The Asphalt Jungle is one of the essential destinations in film noir, but be warned: despite tough guy Sterling Hayden's dreams of bucolic escape, there is no way out. John Huston directed this superbly calibrated crime classic, which displays his usual wry appreciation of fringies and down-and-outers. This time the task for Huston's eccentric ensemble is a jewel robbery, which--this being a Huston film--can't possibly work out as well as its plan. The cast includes Sam Jaffee, indelible as a criminal mastermind, and the pre-stardom Marilyn Monroe. Hayden plays the kind of mug he would revisit in Stanley Kubrick's The Killing, which is an informal homage to this film. And the film's look is definitive: both artful and gritty, it creates a noir landscape that traps its people just as surely as the tar pits trapped the dinosaurs. No wonder they call it noir. --Robert Horton

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