Cool Hand Luke (1967) starring Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Strother Martin, Clifton James, Morgan Woodward, Harry Dean Stanton, Ralph Waite directed by Stuart Rosenberg Movie Review

Cool Hand Luke (1967)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967)


50 eggs in an hour, I doubt I could take down 5 let alone 50 but it is one of the many iconic scenes from the classic prison movie "Cool Hand Luke". But the egg scene also sums up what the movie is about quite nicely as Luke takes down 50 eggs because he refuses to be beat but in doing so it makes him a reluctant hero, with it culminating in Luke stretched out mimicking Jesus on the cross. That scene is also funny, full of energy and thrives on all the cast from Dennis Hopper to Ralph Waite but more importantly on the performances of George Kennedy and Paul Newman. There is also a social commentary side to the movie as Luke is a rebel, a side which to be honest was pivotal on its release back in 1967 but less now. But most importantly despite being over 40 years old "Cool Hand Luke" is still entertaining from start to finish.

After taking a pipe cutter to a series of parking meters Luke (Paul Newman - Hombre) finds himself thrown in prison where Dragline (George Kennedy - The Dirty Dozen) is the top dog behind the wire. Initially keeping a low profile Luke ends up in a fight with Dragline and whilst annihilated by the bigger man his refusal to lie down earns him his respect as does when he bluffs during a game of poker earning him the name "Cool Hand". Before long he finds himself the reluctant hero to the other prisoners especially when he says he can eat 50 hard boiled eggs in an hour but it leads to a desire to escape and nothing is gong to stop him even if the prison captain plans to make his life a living hell.

George Kennedy in Cool Hand Luke (1967)

For those who just want simple entertainment "Cool Hand Luke" works in the classic prison movie form. Luke ends up inside, becomes popular amongst the men and refuses to be beaten by the system. There are a variety of scenes which mix humour and drama from the iconic egg eating scene to an early scene where a scantily dressed woman washes the car in front of the prisoners making sure they can see her dripping wet body. And of course there are prison escapes, both of the simple and clever kind.

But whilst "Cool Hand Luke" works well enough as an entertaining prison movie it is a movie with further depth some more apparent than others. I say that because it is a product of the late 60's and the rebel culture with Luke embodying the rebel spirit. Some of its social commentary side is lost when watched for the first time now but you can still understand who Luke is, a man who refuses to back down and be beat by the system. It is why when watched for the first time now "Cool Hand Luke" is still a very powerful movie because you can connect with Luke and what drives him on.

And that is not it because "Cool Hand Luke" also has a share of Christian imagery to highlight Luke's story of becoming the men's hero. The most obvious is immediately after the egg eating scene as Luke lies on the table in the same image of Christ on the cross. There is a lot more than just that and it adds to the movies power with plenty of great symbolism.

Now part of the reason for this is the direction of Stuart Rosenberg whose pacing is perfect but also the imagery, he brings the story to life, from the semi humorous early scenes to the second half where the Captain and his men attempt to break Luke. But "Cool Hand Luke" also features a lot of good performances with all the supporting cast such as Ralph Waite, Morgan Woodward and Harry Dean Stanton deserving as much praise as anyone. Then there is George Kennedy as Dragline delivering a full on performance of a character much more elaborate than we first realise as we watch him boss around the other prisoners but get to see his true colours later on.

But of course "Cool Hand Luke" belongs to Paul Newman and in fairness it is Newman who makes the movie. Here he is playing an anti-hero, a guy who to be honest isn't that much of a good guy and just a rebel against society but Newman has a certain likeability about him which makes it easy to accept and understand Luke. And Luke is much more complex than just a rebel as we learn slowly there are reasons for his rebellion.

What this all boils down to is that "Cool Hand Luke" is a classic movie for a reason and even watched for the first time now over 40 years after it was released it is still powerful and entertaining. With classic scenes and great performances it never becomes old and once watched you will never forget the sight of Paul Newman eating 50 boiled eggs.