The Wild One is dated and unpolished but remains a joy for Marlon Brando's iconic performance. The thin plot revolves around a boisterous Black Rebels Motorcycle Club who invade a small town, causing a ruckus. The desultory leader Johnny (Brando) becomes intrigued by the attractive yet "square" sheriff's daughter named Kathie who works at the local bar. Most of the conflict arises from rival gang, The Beatles (led by Lee Marvin in a striped T shirt) and what ensues from the locals as Johnny falls for Kathie.
Any Stanley Kramer production strives for social significance. The Wild One reflects the shifting generational change of postwar teens, who yearn to be rebels but are unsure about staking out their own unique identities. This would be typified in the following year with Nicholas Ray's far superior and much more moving Rebel Without A Cause.
This film relies heavily on Brando's appealing image and the looseness of his performance: that swagger and those shifty-eyed glances. Unlike many actors, Brando's sex-appeal is less dependent upon psychical attributes (as gorgeous as he was) and more on the inherent--the intense commitment to character. The Wild One breezes by in a brisk 78 minutes, but Brando's Johnny is forever. ***1/2