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The new warden of a corrupt Southern prison starts by posing as an inmate to observe its brutality.
Through solid dramatic impact and global exposure on cable TV, Brubaker gradually joined the ranks of all-time best prison movies. While preparing to direct Ordinary People, Robert Redford brought his considerable star power to bear on his title role as a prison reform warden, in an unnamed Southern state, who poses as an inmate to expose corruption, violence, and administrative abuse in Wakefield, a prison farm where trustee inmates are armed and encouraged to shoot at would-be escapees. Originally developed for director Bob Rafelson and ultimately filmed by Stuart Rosenberg, this rugged exercise in social commentary has undeniable power, even if some its characters--including Redford's--seem more like stick-figure ethicists than real human beings. It's also got a dynamite supporting cast including Yaphet Kotto, Jane Alexander, and Morgan Freeman in one of his earliest films. Bolstered by his Oscar-winning directorial debut, Redford didn't star in another film until The Natural ended his four-year hiatus. --Jeff Shannon
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Top Customer Reviews
Brubaker arrives at the prison undercover at first, posing as an inmate so he can see first hand the cruelty and barbaric treatment of the inmates at the hands of brutal trustees. Once Brubaker reveals himself to be the new warden, he vows that there will be no more cruel and unusual punishment while at the same time insisting that the inmates will have to prove themselves if they want respect from him.
Brubaker does win over quite a few of the prisoners, but the trustees, one of whom has grave doubts about Brubaker's purpose, and another who profited from the prison farm's previous regime, are not too keen on him, especially the latter who profited in lots of ways from the previous regime of the former and ineffectual warden.
Brubaker steps on many toes in his efforts to make Wakefield (the name of the prison) a more effectual and humane prison. He cancels a contract with an old timer who used the inmates for slave labors for his factory. He burns down the love shacks, infuriating the trustee who used to lord over his power over the other inmates. He fires other prison employees for their unethical practices as well. But the act that really got the prison board on his back was digging up graves, thanks to the info from an old timer (who is brutally murdered for this) in the field, the graves of inmates who died from the brutal policies in past times at Wakefield. This last act ultimately gets Brubaker fired.
Brubaker loses his job, but he does gain the respect of ALL the inmates in the end (including the African-American trustee who didn't trust him at first).
(SPOILERS). It's sad watching Brubaker being driven away from the prison knowing that in no time at all all the process he made in the prison will be undone and the place will most likely go back to being the way it was before he came there....brutality will once again be the norm and the inmates will be at the mercy of the trustees. However it is gratifying reading at the end that a couple of years later the inmates sued the prison officials and the courts ordered it closed.
This really is a great prison movie....it doesn't so much focus on the inmates as it does on the warden (a rarity in prison films) who just wanted to make a difference but has to deal with opposition from the prison board who don't hold to his idealistic and humane ideals. Robert Redford gives the performance of his career in here in my opinion and the supporting cast that includes Jane Alexander, David Keith, and Yaphet Kotto are equally good.
Most underrated film that's worth watching.
Henry Brubaker, as stated in the movie, gained his past experience in corrections working in military prison systems. Brubaker hatches the ingenious plan to insert himself into the prison population at Wakefield Penitentiary as an inmate to experience first hand all the problems inside the facility. What he uncovers is nothing less than barbaric punishment methods, no structured management of inmates, lack of medical care, and the penitentiary itself in advance stages of disrepair.
Henry Brubaker, after revealing his status as the new warden and assuming his duties, goes on to discover that there are no state hired corrections officers on the staff. Inmate trustees, armed with weapons, are given the responsibility of manning watch towers, supervising work crews, and keeping the peace inside of the prison. Furthermore, prisoners are farmed out to local businessmen in the community for work with no pay which amounts to slave labor.
Upon deeper investigation into all the activities in and around the prison, Brubaker discovers other illegal activities including theft of prison food supplies and equipment, inmates being charged fees for almost non-existent medical care, and the revelation that there are prisoners buried on the prison property that were the victims of murder by fellow inmates.
Brubaker confronts the state prison board with these problems only to find out that the prison board is not only aware of these incidents, they think the system should reamin unchanged because it has always been this way and should remain so. You can sense their unhappiness with Brubaker as the new warden who wants to come in and upset their system rather than tow the line.
Henry Brubaker is portrayed as a man of honesty, integrity, and professionalism and in defying the prison board's message to leave well enough alone, he launches his own campaign to reform the prison and correct the wrongs he has inherited as the new warden. Unfortunately, with the power of the prison board and the governor of the state against him, he is eventually removed as the warden and fired.
In the final outcome, many inmates saw the necessity of the changes attempted by Brubaker and were dismayed at seeing him removed and the new warden not making proper progress to reform the prison. This prompted many inmates to file lawsuits against the state for inhumane prison conditions resulting in the governor not being re-elected the following year.
This movie is a fine drama with a very good plot, great acting, and poignant conclusion. I highly recommend this movie to everyone.
Not exactly the same type of movies, but this one and the Shanhawk Redemption are my top two in the list of prison theme movies of all times. Ah, another thing in common between these two, if you want to see a Morgan Freeman in his "youth" have a look to it.
Get some pop-corn and a cold soft drink (or whatever you eat and drink with a good movie) and enjoy. Recommended unreservedly.