Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cool Hand Luke (2009)

Cool Hand LukeThis movie is anything but cool. The characters are rough, foul, and awkward. The setting is realistic and harsh. It takes place in the scorching sun and humidity. There's many a scene of sweat and overheating men. Luke, though, is cool. He's the figure of composure; he's classy, smart, proud, and witty, but he rarely talks, keeping aloof. Or he's independent free man who won't let anyone get him down.

There's a scene when he bluffs his way to victory in a poker match, thus his nickname "cool hand Luke". Another scene has him fighting with another inmate until he's nearly unconscious, but he never surrenders. Yet another has him eating 50 eggs in an hour for a bet, and he doesn't give up. And I think this is the metaphor for the rest of the film. You can either see him as a cocky stubborn man, or more appropriately, a man who won't give up his freedom. He's thrown in prison and chain gang labor for a case of petty vandalism during a drunken stupor, yet he never utters a word about it, even during the most humiliating or painful punishment, but his conviction and sentence are hardly a matter in this film. Here is a man who is troubled and dysfunctional (as the story slightly exposes), but is already in an advanced state of personal freedom. Though he'd like to be living a normal life, searches for it, and deserves as much, he doesn't need it. He's spiritually and mentally invincible, and eventually it leads to his ultimate fate.

Cool Hand Luke is a marvelous film. It's one fourth romantic, three fourths gritty reality. Paul Newman and the gorgeous cinematography are the romance. Newman nearly carries the film. Here's this movie star, a charismatic leading man who liberally uses his smile to get himself through scenes, but he immerses himself into his character. I think Luke is one of the greatest, most complex male characters to grace the screen, and Newman is really the only actor who could ever do him justice. But he isn't playing Newman, he's playing Luke, every inch of Luke. He IS Luke, he is this renegade rebel, this charming dapper Dan, and this tragic everyman. Newman's supporting cast is superb, in one of the best acted films I've ever seen. George Kennedy is incredible as the only sizable supporting character, though the rest of the cast do their utmost to fit their roles, especially the various sinister and slimy wardens, and they do it beautifully. No actor wastes his time on screen. They create the atmosphere.

I just have to mention the dialogue. This is one of those films with incredible dialogue. Nothing is sappy or soupy. It embraces wit and logic, a lovely razor sharpness, and a down to earth realism. Every sentence is perfectly placed, there are no superfluous words, every character with they're own style that still allow them to sound like real people. End of dialogue discussion.

This film is simple. It's simply told, simply filmed, and on the outside it's a simple story, but I think it delves a lot deeper than at first appearance. It's unpretentious. Without us knowing it paints an environment, it paints a setting. It's a movie with certain faintly stylized points and flourishes, with a bit of a Southern storytelling air and lilt to it, and a definite love for fun. But it's intense, from the acting, to plot twists and character developements, to minor "action" sequences (a movie populated by inmates and movie stars has to have some excitement), it has incredible depth in it's subtle symbolism and it's layered messages and it's performances with their emotional tapestries. Thus, it has an immense replayability quotient.

This is drama at it's finest. It is a complex intriguing film that can get under your skin in it's rawness, but can still entertain you, and send you into that dreamy mesmerized state of being in awe of a film and the characters portrayed in it.

And I really mean it. They used to show this film often on the Superstation. When I was twelve, I watched it; the next time it came on, I taped it, and watched it probably more than 50 times over the next few years (I didn't know for a long time that the TV version has several scenes cut out for length, so getting it on video was a new revelation). What is it about "Cool Hand Luke" that is so moving? Well, it starts with Paul Newman's performance. Lucas Jackson is one of the most psychologically complex characters in the history of cinema, and Newman, criminally denied the Oscar for this film, makes him seem larger-than-life without saying much. Everything that comes out of his mouth is a revelation. The Christ allusions, which are fittingly done, heighten the sense of injustice that Luke is being slowly crucified by the lawmen, simply because he won't bend to their rules. On the surface, Luke seems self-destructive and ignorant, but in repeated watchings of the film, it becomes apparent that Luke is answering to a call that is bigger than the prison, bigger than the bosses, bigger than the law itself. I could go on and on about the myriad other ways in which this film is perfect, but why bother? I only get 1,000 words. Suffice it to say that this is the movie that makes George Kennedy, of all people, seem noble. YOU MUST SEE THIS FILM. The only flaw: I grew up in Georgia, and I can assure you that it is not filmed where it is set. Looks more like the Central Valley of California to me.

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*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

"What we have here is failure to communicate"

So says the captain about the inmate called "Cool Hand Luke" in the film of the same name. In the movie, Paul Newman plays a man who lives in a small town. He personifies the very individualistic mindset.

Having nothing to do and no friends, Luke (Newman) decides to do a little drinking while cutting the heads off of parking meters. When confronted by the police, Luke acts like he is drunk (either he is actually acting or he actually is drunk) and finds his way into prison .Once in prison, Luke joins a chain gang. All goes well and, despite a rough start, the inmates begin to like him. He even makes a friend in the form of Dragline, an illiterate man played by George Kennedy. Luke is just about to get out of the prison. Then fate deals him a bad hand.

Luke learns about his mother's death. In his sorrow, Luke breaks out of prison, only to be caught. He escapes again, only to be caught and beaten. Then, he takes a prison truck and escapes along with Dragline, only to be shot by a very accurate prison guard.

This film comments on society's treatment of the individual. In the beginning of the film, Luke's attitude equals the epitome of self sufficiency. He is a loner who considers rules and regulations, as he puts it in the scene with the famous "Night in the Box" speech, "nothin' worth listenin' to." As he lives on in the prison, his attitude of I don't need you frustrates the prison officials who try to get his "mind right" repeatedly. They take their dismay, and persist in doing this despite it's lack of effectiveness, to the point that they beat Luke. Luke fights them at every turn. They lie and beat him, showing this most sadistically in a scene where they tell Luke to get his dirt out of the captain's ditch. They make him get the dirt out, then complain about the unavoidable effect of having that dirt on the lawn when he is done. He has to put the dirt back in. Right after that, he is forced to take the dirt back out again. This cycle continues until Luke reaches the point where he lashes out in frustration, only to be beaten to the point where he falls into the ditch. He comes back out, wrapping his arms around the nearest guard, crying about how his mind is now right.

Then there is the climactic scene with Lukein a church. Dragline comes in and tries to get Luke to give up peaceably. Here, Dragline represents society's desire to get everyone to just mindlessly conform to its ways. Luke refuses, and ironically gets shot. This shooting is interesting if nothing else for the fact that the authorities not only have no reason to believe Luke is armed, but also for the fact that he gets shot for impersonating a prison official. Luke's soul has refused to conform to society's rules and ends up needing to get extinguished.

Thus, "Cool Hand Luke" becomes a comment on society. Luke dislikes the need of his fellow inmates to latch onto him so tightly. Luke dislikes rules, becoming a non-conformist. Society has constantly tried to extinguish the non-conformists. Examples include the Civil Rights Movement, the Feminist Movement, and the homosexuals. Like them, Luke is also a non-conformist. Like them, society clashes with Luke. Like them, society tries to kill Luke. Too bad society has not learned to deal with other people's views.

Read Best Reviews of Cool Hand Luke (2009) Here

Paul Newman portrays Lucas Jackson, an iconic film anti-hero, in this classic film.

Luke seems to have wandered aimlessly after winning several medals in WWII, and in the beginning of the film he's arrested for "maliciously destroying municipal property" using a pipe cutter to cut the heads off of parking meters.

The film has little exposition and in the next scene plunges our anti-hero in the middle of Division of Corrections, Road Prison 36, in the south. Strother Martin plays the "Cap'n", the warden of this group, and Luke is instructed that all the other guards are to be called "Boss". The bosses are frighteningly sadistic. Morgan Woodward is terrifying as "the man with no eyes". He speaks no words from behind his mirror sunglasses, but has a rifle brought to him every so often so that he can demonstrate his sharp-shooter accuracy.

George Kennedy won Best-Supporting Actor Oscar as "Dragline", bull of the herd of prisoners. Dragline leads the group, running gambling and the small barracks "bank", and all the other prisoners follow his example and look to him as the source of what little self-respect they have.

Luke and Dragline knock heads, figuratively and later on, literally, when Dragline beats Luke nearly unconscious in a brawling boxing match. Dragline and the other prisoners live a pretty vivid fantasy life. They blow-up the smallest slivver of hope into a bright shining ray of hope. In a famous scene the prisoners are working just down the road from a beautiful blonde who stretches and teases and caresses the car she is washing with a soaped up sponge (this scene has been copied many times since in more juvenile films). The other prisoners immediately attach themselves to the fantasy image of "Lucille". She is just some innocent, beautiful girl who "didn't know what she was doin'" while she postured her curvy side for the men. "Oh, she knew what she was doing, and she loved every minute of it", Luke states plainly, bursting the fantasy balloon of the other prisoners. This leads to the famous boxing match with Dragline.

Luke is insolent and rebellious and talks back to the Bosses in a way the other prisoners wouldn't dare. He gradually earns the respect of the other prisoners, and one of the best scenes of the film occurs at a poker game where Dragline finally comes to respect Luke and gives him his nickname.

Luke doesn't want responsibility, even the responsibility of the admiration of the prisoners. The film charms it's way under your skin, though, and it's very easy to lose the perspective that by the end you've spent the entire movie rooting for a man who by almost any other definition would be a loser.

Paul Newman has seldom been better.

Want Cool Hand Luke (2009) Discount?

Released in '69, 'Cool Hand Luke' is in my opinion Paul Newman's signature film and one of the great classic films of all-time. Everything worked together perfectly in this movie; A marvelous directing job by Stuart Rosenberg, terrific contemporary soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin and and ensemble cast to die for. There are so many well known faces in this film and so many great, quotable lines you'll never forget.

Newman plays the recently incarcerated Luke. Assigned to a chain gang to serve out a relatively short sentence for cutting the heads off parking meters, his non conformist ways earn the respect of the other inmates and the hatred of the guards and captain.

What makes 'Cool Hand Luke' so memorable is the fact that it's a story within a story. On the one hand you have a mundane prison tale of a group of societal misfits serving time for their various indisgressions. However on a deeper level you have a Messianic parody with Luke as the Christ. As the inmates embrace him as their "Chosen One" the guards seek to destroy him for disturbing the established order. A great film on so many levels. For those who like to read into the story, or for those who are just looking for a little entertainment.

George Kennedy received a well deserved Oscar for his supporting role, but it really should have won many more. Newman is magnificent and Martin Strother once again proves himself to be one of the greatest character actors of his generation. A near perfect film.

One of the Essentials!

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