Cool Hand Luke Review
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Cool Hand Luke is one of those movies that you have got to make a part of your collection. Thirty-some odd years later, it’s still the movie that people point to when they talk about the best movie that Paul Newman ever made. Newman plays a charismatic convict who, without trying, becomes the leader of Road Prison 36.

Newman’s character, Lucas Jackson, is sent to jail in the post World War II South for cutting the heads off parking meters, (“Small town, not much to do in the evenin’.”). Sent down for two years, he sees doing time in prison pretty much the same as doing his time in the Army. He’s just another con until he and another prisoner try to settle a grudge with boxing gloves in the prison yard. Luke is beaten senseless but refuses to give up. With the newly-won respect of the other prisoners, Luke begins to become the unofficial leader of the chain gang. It’s a job he doesn’t want but never really tries to get out of, either.

Luke’s mother dies shortly after visiting him, and that’s when his downward spiral begins. He’s locked in “the box” to prevent him from trying to get home for the funeral, (“You gotta understand, Luke, it’s my job.” “Saying it’s your job old boss don’t make it right.”), and you can tell he’s not the same man when he’s let out two days later.

At times, the dialog sounds a little stilted, but it never comes off as forced. Every character has a distinct personality and voice. Some of the best lines in cinema history are in this movie -- as are some of the best scenes ever shot. From the things that cause a man to spend “a night in the box,” the man with no eyes, “shaking it off here, boss,” Luke eating fifty eggs in an hour, to Lucille washing her car; there isn’t a wasted inch of film in this movie. And where else are you going to get to see Dennis Hopper sing “Old McDonald had a Farm”?

It’s a plain story told very well with great actors that bring genuine emotion to the screen. George Kennedy was so good as Dragline, Luke’s antagonist and then his friend, that he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The music is sublime, and each camera angle is set to perfection. There’s symbolism of the conflict between man and God, man and himself, but it never overshadows the basic plot. If every movie were just half this good there’d be no more Waterworlds or Murder by Numbers.

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