On the Waterfront (1954)

<strong class="MovieTitle">On the Waterfront</strong> (1954)

(On Cable TV, March 2018) It took me a long time to warm up to On the Waterfront. At first, it felt like a chore of a self-imposed viewing. Taking place low down the social ladder in the working neighborhoods around the port, it talks about corruption, coercion and trying to do the right thing when you’re going to be punished for it. Marlon Brando became famous largely thanks to this film (“I coulda been a contender!”), and it’s easy to understand why—compared to other actors in other films of the time, he feels more real, more alive than most of them. Other standout performances include Karl Malden as a tough priest, and a first appearance by Eva Marie Saint. Still, the film is a grim slog for much of its duration—but it gets much better toward the end, as On the Waterfront finally comes into focus and achieves maximum dramatic intensity. The final ten minutes are riveting, which is a good place for a film to conclude. 

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