Brubaker (1980)

Stuart Rosenberg directs Robert Redford, Yaphet Kotto and Jane Alexander in this prison drama where an unconventional reformer tries to improve a brutal state farm.

Brubaker starts strong. The bleak and violent depiction of the prison is unflinching, incognito new warden Redford poses as an inmate to witness the dehumanising conditions first hand. Once he reveals himself to the administration and inmates the film becomes something a bit more conventional. You can tell it is a later work by Cool Hand Luke director Rosenberg and you can feel its future influence on The Shawshank Redemption. Hell, even a young Morgan Freeman crops up. And by “young” I mean early fifties. The more conventional battle against the system is decent enough, it even throws in a couple of low wattage action sequences, yet the haunting first act does feel a little squandered for the sake of a standard star vehicle.


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