Wednesday, March 2, 2011

On the Waterfront

Another classic Marlon Brando performance propping up what would have otherwise been a somewhat less compelling movie. On the Waterfront ended up having a more interesting story than I expected based on my limited knowledge of it, but it still didn't wow me that much. Brando is very good in a role that won him the Oscar, and the rest of the cast is solid as well. I liked Eva Marie Saint more in North by Northwest, but she also won an Oscar here in a supporting role, and a whopping three other actors also got nominated for support roles, including Lee J. Cobb, who keeps showing up in these movies with his distinct untrustworthy look and fully living up to it. But as a movie that strives mostly on the strength of its acting, it doesn't quite hold up as well as films that focus on other things, because acting styles tend to change a lot and a lot of it isn't as natural-seeming today. It's still plainly a well acted movie, but that doesn't take it as far as it probably used to.

On the Waterfront is about the mob in New Jersey having complete control over the unions that work the docks, manipulating commerce for their own profit and killing anyone who thinks about testifying against their seedy practices. Brando plays a washed up former boxer who works as sort of a low level enforcer for the mob, but he doesn't realize the extent of his involvement at first. After his actions lead to a witness getting killed, he starts regretting ever getting involved, and regrets it further when he starts to fall in love with the witness' sister. It's kind of an obvious story way to get him to really start fighting back against the mob institution, but it still turned out to be a pretty interesting and effectively melancholic underdog story. Nice inspirational couple final scenes as well. Great cast, good movie.

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