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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes Nothin' is a real Cool Hand, September 26, 2005
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This review is from: Cool Hand Luke (DVD)
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.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 3, 2008 3:59:18 PM PST
E. DeMattia says:
this reviewer tries too hard, sounds unrealistic. See the review above.

Posted on Aug 17, 2008 2:49:21 AM PDT
trick shot says:
Great review! This is among my favorite films of all-time.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 5, 2008 11:36:14 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 8, 2008 4:42:20 PM PDT
Doggone me, for trying too hard. In the future I shall try less hard. So help me, I spend most of the day sounding unrealistic.

Unrealistically trying too hard,
Mark

Posted on Oct 6, 2008 11:24:52 AM PDT
Still the best review (of the "144" written to date) for what is arguably the late Paul Newman's "finest hour" on film. My delight at finding this one (deservedly) in the "spotlight" with so many other fine reviews by "Mark J. Fowler" is enhanced by the comment, (Mr. Fowler's assurance) that 'it won't happen again!'

"Doggone me, for trying too hard. In the future I shall try less hard. So help me, I spend most of the day sounding unrealistic.

Unrealistically trying too hard,
Mark
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Location: Blytheville, Arkansas (The "the" is silent)

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