Friday, January 09, 2015

Movie review: On the Waterfront

A classic film, from the AFI's 100 Years, 100 Cheers, for my 3rd 101 Things in 1001 Days.

Terry is a longshoreman on the docks in New York City. He works as muscle for Mr. Friendly. Mostly just "leaning on people." Mr. Friendly runs the docks. He decides who works, collects union dues, and takes kickbacks from those dockworkers who actually want to work on a daily basis.

Most dock workers are content to be shaken down in exchange for putting food on the table. But one man has gone to the Waterfront Commission to rat out Mr. Friendly's operation. He's a nice guy, with a nice sister. Terry likes him. Until he ends up falling from the roof of his apartment building.

Terry has to navigate his own conscience with the dangers of going up against the mob boss Mr. Friendly, all while romancing the dead man's sister, Edie.

Edie knows how her brother died, but she's not a dock worker. She's a girl, and should stay in her safe Catholic school with the nice nuns, safe and sound. She doesn't know that Terry unwittingly lured her brother to the roof he was thrown from. So Terry's got that on his plate, too.

Good thing there's Father Barry, whose own crisis of conscience had come a little earlier. He's there to be the voice of the Little Guy. Can he convince Terry to do the right thing, and turn Mr. Friendly in to the Commission?

On the Waterfront has some now-iconic scenes. Terry's "I coulda been a contender" speech, and Father Barry's "Every murder is a crucifixion" sermon stand out. Malden is great as the priest who came to seek justice just a little too late. Brandon is also good, but he plays into type: an uneducated mook with a good heart. The movie's attitude toward women is pretty dated, but then, so is the movie.

If you can look past the

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