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COOL HAND LUKE

title: COOL HAND LUKE
year: 1967
cast: Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Strother Martin
rating: ***1/2

"You're all feedin' off me!" shouts the title character, a prisoner played by Paul Newman, to his fellow inmates within a sweaty bunkhouse. And that's just it: the film belongs entirely to Newman with some input from George Kennedy, a prisoner who first tries to break, and then worships, our proudly one-dimensional antihero. But the real chore is the chain gang, toiling beneath the scrutiny of gun-toting "bosses" and warden Strother Martin, who utters the famous line about communication, along with Morgan Woodword as a lethal gun-toting guard wearing mirror shades. The direction and editing correlate perfectly, seeming like a propaganda film for rebellion. Yet with so many recognizable actors including Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton, Joe Don Baker, and even Wayne Rogers... more give-and-take between prisoners, all surviving this hell together, would have been nice: replacing, perhaps, an overlong scene with Newman and his coughing, dying mother. A bit overrated, but still quite good.
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