review for The Garment Jungle on AllMovie

The Garment Jungle (1957)
by Craig Butler review

Something of an answer to the superior On the Waterfront, the attitudes expressed in The Garment Jungle may seem a bit foreign to many modern audiences, but at the time of its release, it would have been hard-hitting and relevant. What keeps Jungle from achieving the fame of Waterfront, however, is that its earnest Harry Kleiner screenplay lacks sufficient depth to satisfy as a straight-ahead drama, yet doesn't capture quite the right attitude to satisfy as a prime film noir. Certainly Jungle's look is appropriately noir-ish, with expressionistic angles and lighting that add a disturbing undercurrent to the scenes. Perhaps if Robert Aldrich had been allowed to stay on and finish the film he started (and most of which he directed), the result might have been more consistent than it turned out with Vincent Sherman stepping in. Certainly the fault does not lie with the fine cast -- with the glaring exception of the youthful Kerwin Mathews, who is simply too lightweight and out of his league in this crucial role. No such complaints can be lodged against Lee J. Cobb, who turns in another of his powerful, gripping performances, or against Richard Boone, who makes his thug into every decent man's nightmare. Kudos are also due Robert Loggia and Gia Scala as the husband-and-wife labor duo, who really breathe fire and life into their roles. The Garment Jungle ultimately misses much more than it hits, but these cast members hit consistently.