User Reviews (49)

  • bkoganbing16 June 2005
    The best prison picture ever
    Though Shawshank Redemption has gotten the critical raves and the box office receipts that could make it the best prison story ever filmed, my personal choice for the best film ever done about the penal system is Brubaker.

    Based on the true life experiences of Thomas Murton, the co-author of the book the film is based on, Brubaker captures the realities of prison life, the complexities of trying to "reform" the system without sacrificing one iota of entertainment.

    Robert Redford leads a great ensemble cast in this film. The people here are real, dealing with complex issues for which there are no simple answers. The corruption of the penal system runs deep and helped in part by the prisoners themselves who don't want to see too much change at once or have a vested interest in seeing things run just as they are. Yaphetto Kotto and Tim McIntire are two such prison trustees, both of them showing very different reasons why they don't like some or all of what Redford is doing as warden.

    Among the supporting cast, I'd like to single out David Keith who was the best as the prisoner whose life Brubaker saves and ultimately becomes his biggest booster in the joint. A really outstanding job by David Keith as this simple country kid who just got caught up in "the system."

    Rare you can say a film is informative as well as entertaining, but Brubaker definitely fits in both categories.
  • dbridges723 November 2005
    Personal Comments
    My belated two cents worth: The movie is based on the book, "Accomplises to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal," by Tom Murton. Tom was my roommate at Oklahoma A&M (now OK State U). I have discussed the film with Tom and read official State Police reports of the information on which the story dwells. The first few minutes when Robert Redford goes into the prison incognito was a device to inform the audience of conditions. The remainder of the film is factual, although embellished at points for audience interest. Redford did an outstanding performance representing Murton. At times I could almost believe that it was Murton standing there! Murton was advised by Governor Rockefeller that he had 48 hours to leave Arkansas or be charged with grave robbing. Official reason: lack of qualifications. How much does it take to qualify? Murton got a BS in Agriculture at A&M, and a Dr of Criminology at U Cal, Berkeley, was a Dept Marshal and had 20 years experience in corrections. Murton kept his sense of humor, keeping count of applications declined (he was "too controversial") for similar work (43 at last count), and remarked that one day another system would be so corrupt to demand his services. He died after teaching at Southern Illinois, U of Hawaii, and even his alma mater in Oklahoma. Waste of talent of a brilliant penologist.
  • mikedonovan16 April 2002
    Not a Disney feel-good
    BRUBAKER is my kind of movie; grim, realistic, stimulating and a story based around a great struggle between right and wrong. Robert Redford plays Brubaker (based on the real life story of one Thomas Murton of Arkansas, not to be confused with Thomas Merton, the poet) who tries to bring decency to an Arkansas prison that is corrupt from top to bottom. There are rotten scoundrels among the prisoners and some decent men as well. What is worse, Brubaker has to fight a State bureaucracy full of characters who are even more slimy and despicable than the worst of the prisoners. Along with basic reforms, he is out to uncover a series of murders, prisoners who were murdered and secretly buried. He is really up against it and its tough not to get emotionally involved. The writing and acting is more than ok. Redford is very good in spite of being a little too pretty for the rugged guy part. He's the only one in the movie with the 300-dollar blow dry haircut. This reminds me of the movie MARIE, another flick about a single warrior battling a corrupt state system. The Grape Nuts Guy (W Brimley) and the guy who played Mrs. Robinson's husband (M Hamilton)put in a good performance as despicable bureaucrats. Very little background music is another mature plus.

    A good, feel-bad movie; and as a Bostonian, it's hard to hate a film that has a character in it named Fenway Park.
  • semonifors18 September 2004
    Excellent film rendition of the Thomas Merton story
    This was a well put together film for the period in which it was done in the late 70's. Redford who has always been a social reformer placed an emphasis on communicating the dedication of the Brubaker character in this role.

    If you happen to live in the Deep South where prison farms have used convicts as virtual slave labor for years, you can appreciate the story

    as well as the attitudes of the government and local officials who are portrayed. If you are not from that kind of background, then it is a revelation for you.

    This film is a portrayal of the attempt at prison reform in Arkansas undertaken by Thomas Murton. In the process Murton discovered untold corruption and evidence of multiple murders by previous prison administrations. When he attempted to bring this to light he was threatened with charges of grave robbery.

    I would heartily recommend this film. It is one of a kind.
  • Spikeopath4 March 2008
    Corruption and Murder told with cathartic style.
    It's odd that whenever talk of Prison base films crops up you rarely see Brubaker mentioned as a viable piece of work, which to me personally is a damn shame because it's origin source provides a worthy story to be involved in.

    Based on the writings of Tom Murton, a Prison Farm Reform Warden in Arkansas in the late 60s, the corruption and murder the film deals with is a very frightening reality, and although this film is obviously fictionalised to a degree, the evidence of the main themes can be found from many sources.

    Robert Redford plays the title character who chooses to go into the prison farm as a convict to see at first hand how the Farm is run, what he sees shocks him to the core, which in turn rightly shocks the viewer as well. After learning all he needs to, he comes forward to take control of the Farm and tries to put an end to the torture, corruption and dank depression that is rife at the Farm. He has to deal with many obstacles along the way and it's the strength of the man that has the viewer firmly onside all through the film.

    The acting is emotionally spot on, the title role calls for a cool persona to not get flustered when faced with mounting resistance, and Redford delivers in spades. The main supporting cast of Yaphet Kotto, David Keith, and Jane Alexander do very good work (believable), whilst the direction from Stuart Rosenberg is paced to perfection. The story is grimy and gnaws away at you, and then we get the ending that frustrates as much as it lifts the spirit, this is in my opinion is a criminally undervalued piece of work. 8/10
  • Eschete13 November 2000
    A true story...and things still ain't changed much.
    I saw this movie with my wife, who wasn't thrilled that I brought this back from the video store. She's the type that pulls movies off of the "new release" shelf without fail. But as we got into this movie, she changed her mind.

    Robert Redford plays Henry Brubaker, a prison warden who is recruited to reform brutal Wakefield Penitentiary, in Arkansas. The conditions are terrible, with men sleeping in puddles of mop water and being regularly beaten, tortured, and murdered. Brubaker gets a handle on the conditions there by sneaking into the jail disguised as an incoming criminal.

    When he finally begins his tenure as warden, he meets strong resistance from the community, which is used to the prison being the source of local income and slave labor. The scenes in which Brubaker has to deal with the morally corrupt prison board are powerful and captivating. A good view.

    Cinematography is questionable, and the editing TV movie-like. Acting is superb, and the local color interesting. I give the film a B-.

    Things to watch for: white trash sister, Morgan Freeman's debut, rape scene.
  • bzahner-13 February 2012
    Awesome movie.
    I first saw this movie in 1980 when it came out. Growing up this was one of my very favorite movies. In the beginning when Brubaker sneaks into the prison as an inmate - this is the stuff that kids dream of. Nothing could be more exciting.

    Slowed down a bit in the middle but picks up towards the end.

    I thought it was a great movie then & after watching it again in 2012 still think it is awesome. Redford is great. Keith is great. Morgan Freeman is great. Well acted by all.

    I don't comment on movies much because all I have to really say is - I like it.
  • freemanist27 February 2005
    In prison, even the stink 'stinks'
    Brubaker (Robert Redford) as a messiah-type, seemingly on the fringe of municipal importance, takes up the job of Warden at a Southern state penal farm and decides to see the extent of what he is up against by entering in disguise as just another inmate, with no privileges. He feels that to absorb the experience from the inside looking out is preferable to relying on preconceptions. He is right as the thrust of the film would have otherwise been lost and the overall plot (simple though it is) is stronger for the fact that Brubaker has 'been there'.

    He manages to carve a bond with a few prisoners before he modestly reveals his true identity and, through a series of well acted confrontations, he begins to make the prison machine tick over nicely. In the final analysis his efforts are not totally successful, but the film does reflect change and at least the viewer can agree that he seized the chance to make a difference.

    The film is possibly a bit too long and the principal character is under-developed. 'Brubaker' was apparently a rather mournful, strained film to work on and the original director, Bob Rafelson, was sacked for smacking Ron Silverman (producer) in the nose during an early on-set argument.

    However, I think it is well acted and very absorbing to watch. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Brubaker gets his staff to release a few long term solitary confinements, stating that before they do so, the requisite pairs of sunglasses should be given to them as they come out of complete darkness for the first time in ages - the staff think Brubaker is crazy: of course, they cannot see that this is all about building trust. The master plan is therefore to get the inmates on board and allow the trustees to follow. Nice theory, not so nice to put into practice as he is up against a rancid, but self policing establishment from day one.

    Watch out for Wilford Brimley as "Rogers" - a later teaming up with Redford took place in the outstanding "The Natural", with Brimley starring in a major role as the jaundiced, downtrodden, Pop Fisher.
  • Lee Eisenberg25 February 2006
    Get sent to jail, and you wonder whether this could happen.
    Robert Redford plays another dignified character, this time as new warden Henry Brubaker posing as an inmate in a corrupt prison to understand the deplorable conditions there. As is the case with any prison-related film, we get to see some really ugly things here. Maybe "Brubaker" goes a little overboard in portraying its main character as a saint, but considering that the main point is to show the inhumanity of this country's penal system (which apparently hasn't changed much since this movie came out), they do a good job. I'd say that it's another movie that, if nothing else, deserves kudos for disproving the "Disney-ized" version of the world that we often get shown. A very good movie.
  • lastliberal25 May 2007
    You can't reform the system if you're not in it.
    W.D. Richter did the screenplay for the 1978 remake of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He also did the screen story for this Robert Redford film about prison reform. In fact his screenplay/story was nominated for an Oscar.

    I know prison reform is an anachronism today. Incarceration is simply removal from society with no concern for rehabilitation.

    The film is based on real life. Thomas Murton of Arkansas tried to fix the system. I grew up in Arkansas and was exposed to stories about the "Tucker Telephone" from the Tucker prison farm, and stories of bodies of murdered prisoners being dug up on prison grounds.

    So Redford sports a John Edwards haircut in the film, he still does a great job. He is assisted in this film by Yaphet Kotto, who I always enjoy, and Morgan Freeman.
  • Rodrigo Amaro11 September 2013
    A shock to the system
    This almost forgotten film should be analyzed today after its unexpected and unimagined possibility of an alternate reality that wasn't a complete fabrication. The story of a prison warden who wants to change everything that's wrong in the prison system of his state really happened. "Brubaker" focus on a challenge to a corrupt system that on the surface seems to be doing its service of punishing convicted criminals but also is a vile and dirty business whose purpose is to profit above all costs.

    The lead character, played by an unusual and remarkable Robert Redford, is introduced to us as a prisoner who barely speaks but observers everything concerning how inmates are treated by the guards, how the machine works behind bars and the constant brutality of the place. The plot twist to everyone is when he presents himself as the new warden and he sets up a whole reformation on the place, condemning what's wrong and doing what he believes it's right. There's plenty of benefits for the prisoners but the guards and the businessman who always gained advantages with the old administration aren't happy about this, and that misery and dissatisfaction goes back to the people who hired him, the governor and his staff who now pressure the man to go easy with his work. After all, they are losing a lot of money obtained with frauds and illegal schemes. One man alone means nothing so Brubaker is helped by some inmates and a local authority (Jane Alexander) who is close to the state governor, and will try to convince everyone that Brubaker's idealism if put to work can be profitable for everyone involved.

    Brubaker's idea isn't just to denounce the illegal affairs of the state and make budget cuts. He's more concerned with the way convicted felons are treated, want to stop their exploitation and make the place a safe environment instead of the critical animal factories that don't punish anyone but is only useful to transform them into bigger monsters whose only fate is either death, or commit more violent crimes or to return to the animal factory again. Sure, this idea is good and valuable but not practical. In the film's case, it fails because one can't change a system unless if one being part of it; Brubaker made the terrible mistake of not firing the whole officials team, and those guys still managed to cause harm and work their way behind his back; and the people with the money will always speak higher.

    Such idealism wouldn't work today, that's sure but it could worth a shot, specially in countries where the private initiative isn't the option (because politics are having their big time with a failing system that pays them well). Today's criminal minds are far more worse than the ones from the 1980's when this was made and they probably wouldn't leave a place where they could feel as if being on a hotel, practically with the cell keys on their hands, dictating orders like Pablo Escobar did in his "prison" time. But it can be made. And that final image of accomplish given here says everything even though things didn't turned the way it could.

    The film has a fine progression and it's greatly well acted by Alexander, Redford and heightened by convincing performances from trustworthy character actors Everett McGill, David Keith, Yaphet Kotto, Matt Clark, M. Emmet Walsh, Murray Hamilton and a young Morgan Freeman. "Brubaker" has that rare quality of being dreamy, that enlightening power some movies have in our reality and we want to believe of making a dream possible. To change the world. 8/10
  • kenandraf3 August 2002
    Classic Prison Film
    Very good Prison system film that could have been a Masterpiece if it had better cinematography,screenplay and directing which were only average.But still,the story was powerfull and very positive.An Idealist's film that challenges us regarding our treatment of the less fortunate souls undergoing over punishment in most Prison systems even today.Excessive Prison punishment is not necessary.Their punishment is their loss of freedom and that is it.Inhumane treatment is not our right to bestow on criminals no matter what they may have OR HAVE NOT done.This is the burden of society.The burden to care for these Prisoners as they serve out their time.The burden to ensure that these Prison caretakers do not become criminals themselves during the process.This great film puts it out there nicely.Good cast and acting here as well.Only for liberal or idealist minded people who like prison dramas and for big fans of the lead actors......
  • whpratt116 January 2008
    Great Redford Film
    Enjoyed this film starring Robert Redford, (Henry Brubaker) who plays the role as a law enforcement officer who poses as an inmate at Wakefield Prison in Arkansas. Henry discovers many corrupt people in this prison and he eventually comes into power as the warden of this prison. This prison is ruled by corrupt politicians and prisoners who are working with prison guards who are stealing food and money from the prison funds. Henry also uncovers some buried graves of many prisoners who have been buried on the grounds of the Wakefield which starts a complete state investigation and changes some of the major problems at the prison. You will be surprised how this film ends and I must say that Robert Redford gave an outstanding performance in this film.
  • Dr Jacques COULARDEAU27 November 2007
    Prison reform is not sweet cake
    Warning: Spoilers
    Another film, but in 1980 it was one of the first, on prison reform. The interest is in the fact that the new boss of the prison gets inside the prison as an inmate, unknown of everyone in the prison. So we get a first part that depicts, from inside, all the unethical dealings and purely criminal acts from the prison guards as well as from the inmates. Simple prisoners are the victims of all kinds of violence from the trustees, from the bullies and they have to buy their way through this permanent ordeal even from the doctor who sells his medical assistance, not to speak of the slave labor the prison provides to local contractors or businesses, entrepreneurs in a word that may turn into undertakers, and even the finagling and embezzling and trafficking of the prison guards with the food and anything that can be taken, legally or illegally, from the prisoners and sold at a price. The second part is the first dealings of the new boss with the problem and we discover even more scandalous crimes from inside the administration including the systematic torturing and killing of resisting inmates. The third part deals with the reaction of the prison board, the senator, the governor, and other officials when they learn what is happening, i.e. the attempt to open up the various chapters of this book of torture and killing. And then we discover some more embezzling and the will to cover it all up. They will eventually fire that resisting warden. We also discover in this third part that prison reformers are ready to accept any compromise, i.e. to cover up the crimes of all officials provided they get some investment for the prison, provided the truncheons get gilded points. The last scene is the emotional departure of the fired warden and a last written statement on what happened afterwards showing or proving the story was a true story. Of course the point of view of the inmates themselves is not explored, but the film is very effective about prison reform and what the minimum has to be: to give back to the inmates all their human rights lest they may go to court to fight for them, which is slightly romantic for us to believe that.

    Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines
  • tommyfinn27 December 2002
    one of my fav's
    Everyone has a movie they never tire of watching and this is mine. Redford is excellent as the man fighting the cons, the system and the Governer. one of those movies that makes you sit up and think, and the end where he's applauded away form the prison is superb.
  • soranno5 November 2002
    One Of Robert Redford's Last Great Acting Performances
    This 1980 20th Century Fox release was Robert Redford's last offical film as an actor before he made his directing debut later that year with "Ordinary People." It's a fine way to bring the first end to a distinguished acting career (Redford acted in only three other films throughout the rest of the 1980's). He portrays Henry Brubaker, a man who has been elected as the new warden of a state prison farm. He decides to pose as an inmate in order to get a close up view of just how the real inmates are treated by the guards. Appalled by the sadistic treatment that he sees, he works to challenge the prison system to provide honest and decent leniency for the prisoners. Just like he did in "All The President's Men", Redford once again successfully changes from his original comedic sex symbol persona and can be regarded as a serious actor.
  • cormac_zoso6 March 2013
    One of the best during an astounding 13 year run by Redford
    Warning: Spoilers
    *** HERE BE SPOILERS *** Even at the time I remember 'Brubaker' being an overlooked film ... I told everyone i could about that film and even my parents, who went out anywhere about once ever 25 years or so, agreed it was a great movie ... one of the last things we agreed on certainly and one of the few things we agreed on ever ... but i think it says something in some way about this film basically, you've got the general outline of the story from other reviews but this is not your typical, southern prison film where even at the lowest levels of the prison system it is all about race ... this film has so much more to offer but first one plot hole ... Redford's character is the new warden of the prison but he goes undercover into the general population of the prison first for a while to see what is really going on in the prison ... this is a cool idea of course and you get to see how the prison really is, which is of course god-awful ... BUT how did he NOT get BUTT-RAPED??? seriously ... i'm not trying to be funny ... rape in prison is nearly as introductory as the lice-bath and it is not about sex (as many will point out and mention that Redford's good looking and all that) ... rape isn't about sex ... it's about power ... ask any psychologist or sociologist ... look at the statistics of how many rapes end in ejaculation (under 3% last time i looked some time ago) ... and in prison, well, it's all about power ... so how did he not get raped?? perhaps it's 1980 and people aren't ready for that ... or they thought maybe it was too much of a repeat of 'Deliverance' ... but just a big plot hole imho ...

    OK aside from that we see all the terrible things in the prison, etc ... and then Redford slips into a nearby phone booth and 'ta-da', changes into Super-Whitey, here to save the abused underclass of prisoners ....

    i'm being facetious ... the film brings out one truly horrible thing that's been going on and i won't spoil that bit plot turn ...

    but among the things found is a young Morgan Freeman's character who has basically been chained up like a dog for years and whose mental imbalance shows from it ... Freeman gives us an all out, frothing-at-the-mouth performance that gives way to subtleties we are now all familiar with from this very gifted actor ... but this was early in his Hollywood career and this was a big break for him indeed ... a great role and of course brubaker is the guy who can talk to this crazy man that the other guards, even the few good ones, disregard as nuts ... but from the mouths of babes and the lunatic fringe comes the truth ... and so it is for this relationship in the movie but one of the truly gut wrenching scenes is one where an old black trustee, one-eyed and spirit broken to an easy gentle submissiveness that gives him just enough motivation to push a broom basically, is told by brubaker who is looking at his file, that he should have been released YEARS before ... i haven't seen the movie in a while so don't recall the character's name or who played him but you'll know it when you see it of course ... the look on his face is one of the most haunting committed to celluloid ... but then the realization that he might actually HAVE to LEAVE the prison, the safe cocoon he's now so adjusted too and so comfortable in, makes the revelation one of truly horrific proportions ... we see a similar and longer-played out version of this in the immortal "Shawshank Redemption" where Brooks Hatlen is given his freedom after decades in prison and has become so institutionalized, there is no way he can adjust to the outside ... and we see our friend Morgan Freeman explaining this during this film also and nearly see his character succumb to choosing the path Brooks chooses in the film to deal with this terrifying reality ... quite a pair of bookends for Freeman in these two prison films ...

    anyway, don't miss this one ... it's probably easily found for a buck in a big bin at wal-mart ... or for a penny on amazon ... and don't miss the other films in this 13 year run of Redford's including his directorial debut from the same year, "Ordinary People", which is probably why "Brubaker" got overlooked so much ... when you can make Mary Tyler Moore into the Bitch of the Decade, well, you've done some Oscar-worthy directing, my friend lol ...

    also don't miss 'Electric Horseman' ... one of those anti-hero classics that gets overlooked as well ... a wild and wooly start that turns into a contemplation on the American condition that is another underrated classic imho and directed by one of my personal faves, Sydney Pollack
  • jc-osms8 July 2011
    Inside looking out...
    Unremittingly tough jail-drama set in the modern-day but somehow feeling retro in many ways. There's a good true-to-life story here, of a newly installed reforming prison governor attempting a root and branch reform of the corrupt, inhumane and as it turns out evil practices at a prison somewhere in the prison south. Baulked by politics as his reforms start to make themselves felt, Redford's title character must decide whether or not to toe the party line and compromise his beliefs.

    For me, the story was weakened by just too any scenes coming over as second-hand, witnessed in so many prison dramas of yore. At least the movie tells its story from a different point of view, in placing Brubaker at the centre of the drama and not the usually heroic prisoners.

    The cinematography is excellent, as, for the most part is the ensemble acting. I'm not convinced Redford was right for the part, his good looks yet again working against him and his performance falling short of the crusading zeal the part demands. He rarely seems to get really angry, which is strange, as there's plenty for a liberal like him to rail against. I wasn't convinced by the over melodramatic "Spartacus" meets "Goodbye Mr Chips" finish, which just didn't ring true.

    All that said, I was reasonably engrossed all the way through but didn't in the end feel the film conveyed a suitably dramatic arc, or insightful delineation of character, to really make it remarkable.

    Good, yes, but not great.
  • Bats H20 September 2002
    Based on a true story....
    This movie is based on a true story - sports an all star cast. The knowledge of this held my interest. Many of these actors were just getting started. If you've seen this movie before - but it's been a while - watch it again. One of Robert Redford's most convincing preformances. It may be a bit idealistic - but that's tempered with realistic situations. Excellent movie - for anyone who likes a good script.
  • jeffknowlton20028 September 2002
    It's definetely a parallel to the Life of Christ.
    I'm a born-again Christian and when I saw this movie it really made me think of the life of Christ when he was on planet earth over 2000 years ago. Brubaker assumes the role as a prison inmate before he becomes the warden. Jesus came from heaven to earth and was also in a very lowly position in life before he starts his ministry. Brubaker was a humble yet very bold individual who was not afraid to p*** anyone off. He wouldn't play anyone's game either. Jesus was the same. Brubaker was a rabble-rouser who ruffled many feathers. Jesus, even though He lived to do the perfect will of the Father, He was a bit of was a bit of a rabble-rouser too. Just read Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Prison Board members kind of resembled the Pharisees and the Sadduces in a way. Redford's Character with Prison Board and other certain people the same way Jesus did with the Pharisees and the Sadduces.
  • sjfsas20 April 2002
    Brilliant story and just as good an acting performance by all concerned. Especially Redford.

    The prison set is so cold it real puts a chill inside you. Its just a shame the film has to end.

    Its nice theres a write-up at the end of the movie though, thats always a good way to finish a film.
  • Leofwine_draca26 November 2017
    Hard-hitting prison drama with Robert Redford
    Warning: Spoilers
    BRUBAKER is another exemplary, hard-hitting slice-of-life prison drama from the director who brought us COOL HAND Luke. Robert Redford has never been better as a prison warden who goes undercover in his new posting in order to learn the ins and outs of the place - the ultimate UNDERCOVER BOSS! He soon learns that corruption is endemic in the system and vows to clean it out, with the usual repercussions. This lengthy drama is full to the brim of great sub-plots, moving scenes, fine character work from the supporting cast (David Keith and a debuting Morgan Freeman stand out alongside Yaphet Kotto, Joe Spinell, and Everett McGill as the guards) and a general quality feel. Overall, though, it's Redford himself who sells the picture, embodying his character with a real drive and spirit which is truly inspiring.
  • gab-1471220 October 2017
    A Truly Fascinating Story!
    Brubaker is one of those underseen hidden gems I had no idea existed until I began researching little-known movies that might peak my interest. I adore prison dramas no matter how ordinary or clichéd they may be. This movie is abundant of prison movie clichés, but it is the political nature of the story that fascinated me, as well as the strong cast. Let's get the bitter stuff out of the way first. What do I mean by a clichéd story? It is all about the characters and who they represent. We got the idealistic reformer, the tough-as-nails colored guard, the rotten person on the prison board, and the psycho prisoner. These type of characters pop up in nearly all prison movies, but at least we have a very talented cast playing these roles with near perfection.

    Before I can delve in with what fascinated me the most, we need to discuss the plot. There is a new prison warden at Wakefield Prison. Henry Brubaker (Robert Redford) decides to begin his new position in an unorthodox way-disguised as an inmate. He looks, thinks, and pays attention to what the situation is at the prison. After having enough of the corruption, he reveals himself as the new warden. His agenda is ending the corruption once and for all. When the local business community led by John Deach (Murray Hamilton), whom benefits from the corruption begins to fight back, Brubaker is going to have plenty of trouble on his hands Now we got that out of the way, I will talk about what truly fascinated me about the movie: the corruption of the prison system and the attempted overhaul of the system. One thing that struck out to me immediately is that there are no prison guards. Instead, there are prisoner trustees that get promotions if they shoot any escaping prisoners. The first thirty or so minutes of the film highlights the brutality such as the beatings, the sexual assaults, the bribery, and so forth. The way Brubaker revealed himself to his prisoners is very genius and it gives him a sense of all the corruption happening around him. But then the underlying theme that change is hard for some people happens. We get a sense of how big this corruption scam is. How all the people in the local community are benefiting from this scam. The movie does a great job highlighting the events in the movies.

    Because the story is moved forward though events, the characterization of the people in the movie is an afterthought. It did not bother me as it may have bothered other people, mainly because the story intrigued me. That being said, the cast did a terrific job. The one character that was fleshened out was Robert Redford's Brubaker. Redford is a really talented actor and his performance kept you riveted, although I kept thinking he seems too nice to be a prison warden. We all know Murray Hamilton gets through by being a slimeball, and that is no difference here. We get an early Morgan Freeman performance as one of the deranged prisoners spent too much time under solitary confinement. There are also notable supporting character performances from the likes of Yaphet Kotto (from Alien fame) and Jane Alexander. There characters were not written well, but the actual performances were solid.

    Overall, Brubaker is an underrated gem. It is a drama that highlights the corruption in the prison system and what makes this film more interesting is that it is based on the true life events of warden Thomas Murton who was hired by Arkansas governor Winthrop Rockefeller to reform one of the prisons, but was let go after one year due to bad publicity. W.D Richter's screenplay does manage to convey how Brubaker's methods created bad press for the town. More care could have been given to the characters, but it is the story that truly moved me. As a fan of prison dramas, I added one more prison drama to my list.

    My Grade: A-
  • HotToastyRag14 October 2017
    There's really only one good scene
    In the opening scene of Brubaker, a group of convicts are on a bus on the way to prison. Among the prisoners is Robert Redford, with a perfectly windswept 'do and a very innocent looking face. In jail, Robert Redford—and the audience—is exposed to some very upsetting goings-on, including senseless beatings for no reason other than to warn the other prisoners, knife fights, rape, inedible food, and corrupt officials. But it isn't until Morgan Freeman, a man in solitary confinement, throws a fit that Robert Redford steps forward. Turns out, he's been undercover the whole time. He's the new warden.

    While it's got a fantastic premise, most of the film just doesn't work. Everyone knows Robert Redford is passionate about his causes, but in this movie, he's just too handsome and glamorous to pull off the role. Wouldn't he have a love interest, or any other kind of connection in his life that might take his attention away from the prison? The first several years I saw Robert Redford in films, I really didn't like him because I found him cold, with a chip on his shoulder. Then, of course, he won me over in The Great Gatsby, but in Brubaker he's a little cold and has a pretty large chip on his shoulder. If you like him best in All the President's Men and similar films, you'll probably feel differently than I did about Brubaker.

    To be fair, there's one really great scene in the movie, the Morgan Freeman scene. The two usually understated actors throw caution to the wind and lose their tempers, and it's terrific to watch. So, my advice is to enjoy the opening sequence and after Robert Redford says the fantastic line, "Any f***ing color he wants," then turn it off. Trust me, it doesn't get any better than that.

    Kiddy warning: Obviously, you have control over your own children. However, due to extreme violence, I wouldn't let my kids watch it.
  • bheadher6 August 2017
    While fiction, there is reality knocking at your door...
    Warning: Spoilers
    If you think the corruption and brutality in this movie is just fantasy, I have some news for you...

    The corruption and brutal treatment of prisoners at state prisons was too often very real, until they were uncovered and dealt with. And it was not limited to the deep southern states, either. In fact, of the ten most infamous prisons in the US, five of them are in northern and western states...that doesn't mean the south gets a free ride though. Most of the southern prisons were notorious for the chain gangs, and some were identified for the corruption as well. The difference in the movie Brubaker, is that the corruption displayed is totally open and everybody knows about reality, corruption was usually very localized, and many officials simply had no idea it was so rampant.

    Brubaker is an eye opener of a movie, and deserves every one of the stars...
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