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mdtinney's Movie Reviews (315)

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Cool Hand Luke 
Newman's best?
3.5/4 stars

Paul Newman is "Cool Hand Luke" in this 1967 film that co-stars a lot of familiar faces: Strother Martin, George Kennedy, Wayne Rogers, and Ralph Waite. However, "Cool Hand Luke" is worthwhile for a lot more than the cast. It's the vintage Newman antihero, coming along during the era of protest and noncomformity. Luke is a man put on a prison chain gang for vandalizing parking meters. He wins the admiration of his fellow inmates with his refusal to conform to the rules. There are many famous scenes and lines, one of the most famous being when Luke casually announces that he can eat 50 eggs. Newman's take on this role is fantastic - he underplays, speaks with a measured tone of voice, betraying his emotions in his eyes and his bemused smile - but when he lets loose with the goods - look out! One of the most poignant scenes is Luke playing guitar and singing when he learns of his mother's death. Even when you want to cry, you can't help but smile and admire him - when he prays in the church, for instance, turns and sees Dragline, and yells up to God, "THAT'S YOUR ANSWER?" - you just know what's going to happen, what he'd rather do than go back to prison. In the fight scene, though his opponent, played by George Kennedy, tells him to stay down, Luke refuses and keeps getting up. So we know that even when he begs for mercy, even when we see him stay down, he won't really do it. It's not in his nature. It's hard to choose Newman's greatest performance because he's had so many. But George Kennedy was rarely given an opportunity as he was with the role of Dragline, and he delivers. It's his best work. Strother Martin is mean as dirt, and the rest of the inmates, several of whom went on to star on popular TV shows, are excellent. Fortunately, what we have here is NOT a failure to communicate.


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