The Defiant Ones (1958)
Reviewed on 2011 February 22
A movie from the late ’50s that’s a little dated, but its execution more than makes up for it. Besides, it has Tony Curtis and the novelty of Sidney Poitier singing a song from 1920.
John “Joker” Jackson (Curtis) and Noah Cullen (Poitier) are two convicts in the ultimate Sartre hell: they’re chained to each other. Cullen’s singing, skin color, and breathing all annoy Joker, who’s not one of Cullen’s favorite people either. They’re being transported in a prison truck, which crashes in the night and gives them a chance to escape. They run off and start arguing almost immediately about their next move. It looks like they may pull it off, if they work together and don’t just kill each other first.
I’ve had the odd “great” movie let me down despite a great story and a big-name director, but this did not. There was a part towards the final third of the movie where it began to drag a bit, but then it got rolling again. I thought the ending was brilliant too. Claude Akins has a brief, menacing part, but I didn’t even recognize Lon Chaney Jr. (I watch too many monster movies, I guess) and he was great.
Three chocolate morsels and a cup of hot coffee. It’s rare to see a movie with a message that isn’t irritating or preachy.