In On the Waterfront, The Criterion Collection’s recent release, the guilt is mounting for longshoreman Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) over his unwitting involvement in a murder. Time is also quickly running out as he must decide whether to yield to the pressure to testify against the corrupt union boss (Lee J. Cobb) who ordered the hit, or practice the accustomed response of “D ‘n D” (Deaf and Dumb). Throughout the film Terry’s predicament wears on him, as there’s the risk of not only alienating loved ones and friends, but hanging in the balance is their physical well-being and Terry’s spiritual salvation. No matter what he chooses, the repercussions will be swift and harsh.
Terry Malloy “coulda” been a contender. He “coulda” been somebody. Luke Jackson lived according to his own code, never making plans and never looking back. Only trouble: for both men, neither was enough. Together, they took on insurmountable odds, each claiming victory in their own ways. In this week’s Reel Rumbles, only one walks away victorious as On the Waterfront and Cool Hand Luke go head-to-head in a battle of two modern heroes bucking against their oppressive worlds.