Plot: A tramp (Charlie Chaplin) finds himself in desperate need, so he considers taking the collection box from a mission, but he has a change of heart. He is so taken with the sweet, kind woman at the mission (Edna Purviance) that not only does he return the box, but his entire perspective shifts. Now he wants to do right in her honor, to do his part to create a better world and to that end, he becomes a police officer and seeks to help those who are also in need. He is assigned to Easy Street, which despite the friendly moniker, is one of the toughest locales in town. As he tries to lend a hand and help people, he runs into the local bully (Eric Campbell), who towers over everyone and does as he pleases, no matter who is hurt in the process. Can the tramp use his newfound ambitions to topple the bully or has he bitten off more than he can chew?
Entertainment Value: This twenty-five minute short from Charlie Chaplin’s Mutual run is an absolute pleasure, perhaps a little too sweet for some, but I think it is a wonderful, always entertaining movie. The narrative lets Chaplin’s tramp play a more direct type of hero, fueled by romance and as usual, the tramp winds up against a force much larger and more ominous than himself. Although the tramp takes up the badge in Easy Street, he still gets into mischief and is more of a Robin Hood type than a law & order man, so it never feels out of character. And we know the tramp will do anything for a woman he loves, so that is a core element here as well. His encounters with the bully are great fun and Chaplin weaves in some surreal slapstick touches, such as using the gas lamp to even the odds a little. I also love that Easy Street has so much heart, with strong compassion for its characters and the social elements it touches upon, though the humor never slows here as a result. I hold Easy Street as a comedic masterwork, a short that blends heart and humor in equal doses, highly recommended.