The film Cool Hand Luke (1967) stars Paul Newman, a lone ranger in a movie about a Dixie chain gang’s social hierarchy. The film, which should have been recorded in the south, was filmed in California’s Stockton. It’s likely the director fancied the rolling plains, making a great backdrop in all honesty.
The film is about a chain gang with the department of correction’s company No. 36, whose leaders are sadistic and patronizing, something Luke won’t put up with. Luke is assigned to this gang as a result of one night of roughhouse and drunkenness. In the film, Newman throws his best and is buoyed by an excellent supporting crew, which includes the likes of George Kennedy, who plays the de facto leader of the gang.
The story is depicted from Dragline’s perspective, a hardened criminal affiliated with the Florida chain gang. In the film, here remembers how inspirational Luke Jackson’s presence inspired those around him. As a veteran of World War II, Luke found himself slung into the business of breaking parking meters. Once he becomes a state guest, he begins to display disrespect, which earns him a lot of respect among prisoners.
He is not only in the business of showing disrespect; three times, he escapes prison. While his days are numbered, he embodies a free spirit’s personality. That is the gist of the story.
In the film, Luke goes above and beyond to challenge the prison bosses and all those in authority. But the best part of this entertaining story, which is also an adaptation of Reeve’s work, is that the action is mostly enveloped in gospel music complemented by a pair of Salvation Army singers.
At the point where the words Were you there when they crucified my Lord, we are quickly aware that Luke is now some Christ-figure. This move gives the film a false sense of religiosity and downplays that his time in the war is to blame for Luke’s character.
The film is watchable, no doubt. There are many muddy, bloody, and flattery scenes; however, the director’s attempt to humanize Luke’s character is somewhat ungainly. For instance, in the location where Jo Van fleet, starring as Luke’s mother and on her death, displays bravery. However, she can’t admit that she sometimes wished people as dogs would be a better existence. It is also almost ambiguous how the movie leaves the audience unsure of what to think about his character.
His commitment to disregarding rules is endearing. Plus, he has a charming character and a scintillating appeal that almost gets you to view him his fellow inmates do: a noble figure doing his best to fight against prison prostration.
Performance from the cast is good, but the same cannot be said about the film’s technical aspects. Picture quality is interesting, if not basic. The film’s score is okay, but there is a scene during one of Luke’s escapes filled with jarring and bizarre sounds and instrumentation. Newman shines in his lead role, while co-actor Kennedy sweeps the audience off their feet with a memorable and unique play.