Movie Reviews: Cool Hand Luke

Dennis suggests Cool Hand Luke (in Action).  Paul Newman has never had a better vehicle than this classic late 60’s prison movie.  As Lucas “Cool Hand” Jackson, former war hero, now antiestablishment chain gang member, Newman manages to embody the filmmakers’ existentialist, fatalistic, “little guy destroyed by the system” ideas without turning the enterprise into a preachy bummer.  Like Nicholson in the later One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Newman’s Luke is a confused, nonconformist free spirit thrust into a repressive, authoritarian hellhole who tries to keep his integrity and his sanity, and raise the morale of his fellow prisoners in the face of “the man”, here embodied by indelibly evil warden Strother Martin, who laments about their “failure to communicate”.  Scenes as memorable as any American films’ ever: refusing to stay down while suffering a brutal beating from George Kennedy’s Dragline, conspiring with a little black kid during one of his escape attempts, inspiring the convicts to finish their road gang work faster than they’re supposed to, singing an impossibly moving rendition of the silly “Plastic Jesus” on hearing of the death of his mother, having a bemusedly annoyed chat with God in a church, and, of course, betting everyone that he can eat 50 hard boiled eggs.  Throw in Harry Dean Stanton, Dennis Hopper, Clifton James and “the man with no eyes”, and you’ve got one of the most purely enjoyable movies ever.

Published in: on June 17, 2009 at 12:13 am  Leave a Comment  

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