On the Waterfront (1954)

On the Waterfront won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1954. It pains me to say it, but I did not like this movie despite its high praise from critics and audiences. This film currently holds an 8.1/10 rating on IMDb and is considered one of Marlon Brando’s best performances, one where he took home the statue for Best Actor. 

Before the world came to a halt in 2020, I had planned on catching On the Waterfront at the local Cineplex as their “Flashback Film” series. Well, one thing led to another, and before you know it, everything shut down. I recently watched it on Turner Classic Movies and can say I was happy to save a few bucks. 

I thought the entire story was boring and not eventful, to say the least. Our tough guy, Terry Malloy (Brando), spends most of the movie as a pushover. The guy, who was once an amazing boxer, seems to be afraid of his shadow most of the time. Then when you factor in that he’s gone and fallen in love with a dead guy sister Edie Doyle, Eva Marie Saint, you can see his heart and mind is somewhere else. 

Another rather confusing aspect of the story arc is this Father Barry character, played Karl Malden. He’s got this plan to take down the local crime boss but just has these terrible ideas to get the job done. What makes no sense is that Father Barry is also there at every scene when someone turns up dead. 

I think I found the entire story to be confusing. Some guys are ratting and getting killed, and they know that Malloy could do the same but never pressure him enough to take his turn. After his brother dies, he decides to turn on his boss, which sets up this finale where he engages in a fistfight with his boss and loses. Of course, when everyone else sees Malloy stand up for himself, they all turn and the movie just ends with the boss gone and everyone returning back to work. 

Then there’s this whole story angle with carrier pigeons, and a lot of the film takes place on rooftops in New York City. I wish I could tell you this film was amazing, and all these little subplots add up to this grande finale worth your time, but it doesn’t. I wanted to get on the hype train and have this film end up as one of the best yet, although it wasn’t. 

On the Waterfront may be a film I need to revisit someday. It won eight Oscars and is considered to be one of the Top 250 on IMDb. I must have missed all the things in the movie that made it so special, or it just wasn’t for me. 3/10


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