Brubaker

1980

Brubaker

Critics Consensus

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75%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 24

73%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,647
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Movie Info

Fact-based drama starring Robert Redford as Henry Brubaker, the new inmate at a run-down Southern prison that's become notorious for corruption and violence. After he witnesses several instances of gross misconduct and defuses a tense confrontation with a crazed inmate (Morgan Freeman), Brubaker reveals to the guards and administrators that he's not a criminal at all, but the new warden, assigned by the governor to infiltrate the facility undercover. His identity confirmed, Brubaker takes office and sets about shaping up policies and procedures, despite resistance from, incredibly, even some of the more entitled convicts. With the help of the prison's chief trustee (Yaphet Kotto) and a compassionate ally (Jane Alexander), the warden effects some positive change, but powerful business interests line up against him when his ideas threaten their financial bottom line. A reform-minded, socially conscious, and politically liberal picture of the type usually associated with director Norman Jewison, this fact-based prison drama was the result of a troubled production that saw original director Bob Rafelson replaced with Cool Hand Luke (1967) and The Amityville Horror (1979) helmsman Stuart Rosenberg. Despite the backstage turmoil, Brubaker was an acclaimed release and an Oscar-nominated, career-finale triumph for co-screenwriter Arthur A. Ross, creator of Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) and father of successful writer/director Gary Ross.

Cast

Robert Redford
as Henry Brubaker
Yaphet Kotto
as Richard "Dickie" Coombes, Richard 'Dickie' Coombes
Jane Alexander
as Lillian Gray
Murray Hamilton
as John Deach
David Keith
as Larry Lee
Matt Clark
as Purcell
Tim McIntire
as Huey Rauch
Richard Ward
as Abraham
Jon Van Ness
as Zaranska
Albert Salmi
as Rory Poke
Val Avery
as Wendel
M. Emmet Walsh
as C.P. Woodward
Don Blakely
as Jerome Boyd
David Harris
as Duane Spivey
Ron Frazier
as Willets
Joe Spinell
as Birdwell
Konrad Sheehan
as Glenn Elwood
Roy Poole
as Dr. Gregory
Nathan George
as Leon Edwards
Lee Richardson
as Warden Renfrew
John McMartin
as Senator Hite
Harry Groener
as Dr. Campbell
John Glover
as Ackroyd
Alex Brown
as Fenway Park
John Chappell
as Captain Cleaves
Brent Jennings
as Mr. Clarence
Noble Willingham
as Dr. Fenster
Jane Cecil
as Bea Williams
Vic Polizos
as Billy Baylock
Jack O'Leary
as Floor Walker
James Dukas
as Oafish Rankman
J.C. Quinn
as Barber
Hazen Gifford
as Parridge
Bill McNulty
as Richards
Rob Garrison
as Pretty Boy
Ritch Brinkley
as Gate Guard
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Critic Reviews for Brubaker

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (18) | Rotten (6)

  • Brubaker is a grim, often powerful prison movie based on the true story of convict torture and mass murder in a Southern penitentiary.

    Oct 25, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Brubaker is a dramatic movie with a social conscience and a welcome change from the primarily fluffy-headed film fare of the summer of 1980.

    Apr 28, 2018 | Full Review…
  • ... a vivid, entertaining and shamelessly manipulative "crusading" melodrama about the impact of a reform warden on a barbarous penal institution.

    Oct 17, 2017 | Full Review…
  • Brubaker is a well-crafted film that does a harrowingly effective job of portraying the details of its prison, but then it populates it with positions rather than people.

    Oct 23, 2004 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • It's interesting to note that Brubaker, before it devotes itself entirely to the protagonist's exploits, boasts a first act revolving around the happenings within the central penitentiary...

    Oct 1, 2018 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • The first half-hour is powerful stuff, but after Brubaker reveals his true identity, the movie begins to falter, with the one-dimensional nature of the characters (particularly the warden himself) eventually stripping the story of any dramatic charge.

    Jun 9, 2013 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Brubaker

  • Aug 10, 2014
    Brubaker sounds like something someone would grunt out, or rather, what Robert Redford might grunt out in the shower. Redford might just be playing a warden undercover as an inmate, but he should watch his step, or else he'll end up over his head and down on his knees. "Cool Hand Luke II: Still Too Pretty for Prison"! Stuart Rosenberg had to go with the Sundance Kid, because he just couldn't wait around for Butch Cassidy forever, and now that both Rosenberg and Paul Newman have tragically passed, you shouldn't expect the crossover, "Brubaker and the Cool Hand Luke". Yeah, when you mix the titles of these two prison films together, the result does kind of sound like yet another Newman-Redford outlaw buddy film, so maybe Rosenberg really is hoping to get the attention of the "Butch and Sundance" crowd through these films. I don't know why exactly, because "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" was dull enough when it was just one movie, and the outlaws were still at large, not stuck in prison. Well, don't worry, because this film is fairly compelling, although momentum is still shaken, partly because you can compare it a little too much to more than just "Cool Hand Luke" and, apparently, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". The film isn't simply formulaic, but all-out clichéd, at least at times, in which storytelling falls too far into conventions as a prison drama whose familiarity could be easier to get past if the focuses of this character drama were more distinguished. The performances are convincing enough to help a great deal in selling you on the roles in this narrative, but even the performers' material is thinned down by thin characterization which does little to truly flesh out the depths of each major character. Maybe this film would have had more time to do some fleshing out for the leads if it didn't take some time to introduce ultimately inconsequential roles whose forced incorporation take away from the primary focus of this uneven plot, and add to a sense of excess. The film is a little too long, maybe even aimless in all of its dragging, despite doing a decent job of sustaining your attention that, even then, isn't particularly consistent. Actually, I don't know if the film is especially long, as much as it feels long, when backed by steady directorial pacing by Stuart Rosenberg whose cold spells range to dull from a certain blandness that is actually pretty prominent throughout the film, trying your patience time and again. Many ought to stand their ground against the coldness and be rewarded, and many others ought to be underwhelmed, if not worse, due to an overt thoughtfulness that fails to go justified by more unique, nuanced, even and tight storytelling. Still, the point is that, with patience, one ought to be decidedly rewarded, drawn to the subtle grace to and, for that matter, story concept behind the film. Not much of anything is particularly fresh about this story, but potential still stands firm in this, in a way, unpredictable portrait on prison life, and how a new warden interprets it and works to better the system behind it, and yet, there's also something minimalist about this subject matter. Considering the flaws, this drama's minimalism could have driven the final product shy of rewarding, but the telling of the story ultimately proves to be strong much more than anything, even in a script by W. D. Richter that delivers on fair dialogue and memorable, subtly dynamic set pieces, whose believability helps in immersing you into this intimate drama. Richter does what he can to compensate for characterization thinness and an unevenness in the juggling of the many roles, but he started those problems, so he doesn't pay as much mind as he should towards mending them, thus, the characters have to be brought to life by the cast. At the same time, the thinness to characterization limits material, but when the performers are given something to do, just about all of them deliver, with the portrayers of the prisoners being particularly convincing and effective in their nuance. At least compared to his peers in the central cast, Robert Redford actually isn't particularly impressive, playing himself, but therefore delivering on plenty of charisma to help win you over, though still not quite as much as a certain offscreen performance. Director Stuart Rosenberg takes things steadily, but surely, and much too often, that blands things up, maybe even dulls things down, due to plot structure's being too questionable for all that much momentum to be sustained, but that sort of thoughtfulness, when realized, is solid in its impact, with a subtle tension and resonance that captures the edge of this drama. There is a lot of bite to this audacious and only slightly melodramatized portrait on harsh prison life, into which Rosenberg and his fellow storytellers immerse you enough to reward the patient. In conclusion, conventions, as well as thinness and an uneven juggling of characterization join directorial cold spells in retarding the momentum of an already overlong affair, until the final product runs the risk of falling short of a reward value which is ultimately secured by the intriguing story concept, rich script, solid cast and thoughtful direction which make "Brubaker" an ultimately biting, maybe even immersively gripping prison drama. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • May 14, 2012
    Brubaker is a prison drama - a little like Shawshank Redemption, but in this one, it is Brubaker that is fighting corruption in prison. It is almost too idealistic, but it is always cool when corruption is stifled.
    Red L Super Reviewer
  • Feb 11, 2012
    It's no Cool Hand Luke (Rosenberg's earlier film), but Brubaker is still a great prison drama. Depressing as it may be, it's a fact-based story, featuring an umcomprimising idealist played powerfully by Redford. I appreciated the film's willingness to not strain away from the harsh realities involved, and not opting for an overly simplistic and studio-friendly happy ending. Solid performances and direction all around. Of note for film buffs- you'll notice an early appearance by Morgan Freeman (Nicolas Cage also appears as an extra in his first film). 4/5 Stars
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 26, 2009
    Classic Robert Redford from the early 80's. A gripping movie from the director of "Cool Hand Luke".
    Mister C Super Reviewer

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