Movie Review: On the Waterfront (1954)

On the Waterfront

Note: This is #31 in my 52 Classic Movies in 52 Weeks challenge for 2009.

More Marlin Brando doing his Marlin Brando thing. And you know what? It ain’t bad. On the Waterfront tells the story of Terry Malloy (Brando), a minor cog in the mafia machine that controls everything coming in New Jersey’s shipping docks, including the labor unions. Malloy is tricked into playing a bigger role than he would have liked in the assassination of a potential witness against the mob, and when he takes a fancy to the victim’s sister Edie (Eva Marie Saint) he starts to develop a conscience about this whole thing. Mixed in there is local priest Father Barry (Karl Malden) who has also had it up to here with all this corruption, gosh darn it.

There’s a lot to recommend about On the Waterfront. It’s got a great, mature story that seems to be the prototype for a lot of other films in the gangster genre, but it seems to stay its own creation. Apparently it was based largely on true events as chronicled in a series of Pulitzer-winning articles published in a New York newspaper.

Brando gives a fantastic performance as Terry Malloy, making him come across as a genuinely torn individual who is swept up in everything around him and unsure of what to do. I liked him a lot better here than I did in A Streetcar Named Desire. He just seemed a lot more believable here Malden is also great as Father Barry, even if he does gnaw on the scenery a few times.

So, good stuff. You should watch it.

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