182: On the Waterfront

On the Waterfront (PG) - 1954 - Runtime: 108 minutes
Starring: Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb
Director: Elia Kazan

Sometimes I will rent a movie and just not watch it. I only had to rent this movie twice, which is pretty good considering I rented Road to Perdition, Midnight Cowboy and The Godfather three or four times (I still have not watched the first two). I guess it is just a mental block that I have. I want to watch these movies, but part of it becomes like work. I don't know if I'll like the movie or not - especially with the classics. But after I popped in the disc and started watching, I thoroughly enjoyed what some consider one of the greatest movies ever.

Marlon Brando (looking so young! I watched this after I watched The Godfather and it's completely amazing how different he really looks) plays Terry Malloy, an ex-fighter who has managed to mess up his life. He's pretty much a hired goon for the local and very much evil union boss (ironically named Johnny Friendly) who controls the dock workers. It becomes apparent that the only way to take down Friendly is by testifying in court about the corrupt practices the union partakes of and by ratting out his fellow workers and Friendly himself. The movie is based on a Pulitzer-Prize winning series written by journalist Malcolm Johnson about the corruption and violence plaguing the New York docks.

It's easy to see why the movie won so many awards - the story is superb, the acting is top notch and the directing is spectacular. Brando and Saint give completely real and honest portrayals of the harsh life on the docks. It's a compelling tale - and one that still sparks controversy today - Maggie sent me this link - and it's a good read if you're at all interested in the Hollywood blacklisting or just a fan of the movie. The idea that doing what's right is the noble path, even if that means backstabbing your fellow workers and friends by "naming names." There's a lot of great scenes and powerful moments in the film, none other than the cab ride shared by Terry and his older brother, Charley. This is when Brando utters that most famous line, "I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody." but that scene is so much more - we learn the reasons behind Terry giving up his great love to fight and what sets him apart from his brother. It's a very emotional moment and one that still holds up so well after fifty years.

I don't think this movie has lost any relevance today - there's still the same problems of corrupt officials and bosses taking advantage of the working class. Hell, our whole mess with Wall Street reeks of the same kind of exploitation. Some will argue of the morality of the movie - but that's what makes it such a good movie, that people can still debate about the issues raised. I highly recommend this one!

Rating: Rent It!

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