Brubaker - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Brubaker Reviews

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August 5, 2013
Great acting role by Redford even if the script was abit lax, and Morgan Freeman....young.
½ June 10, 2013
Somewhere in That Prison Is a Very Young Nicolas Cage

I rather collect first film appearances. It's entertaining. I admit I missed Nicolas Cage in this; he's one of the prisoners, but I didn't see him. I did, however, see Morgan Freeman in his first credited film role, which is harder to miss. He was already forty-three, if you can believe it, and had been on TV for some nine years on [i]The Electric Company[/i]. It does not, I must say, exactly hurt my personal theory that he aged almost immediately and has been hovering about the same look ever since. I think I talked about this when I watched [i]The Pawnbroker[/i], too, but I quite like Morgan Freeman, so we're going over it again. His is a small but crucial role, that of the man who unknowingly leads to the big reveal. It could have been anyone in the part; this isn't a role that requires the patented Morgan Freeman Gravitas (TM). Still, I think he kind of prefers these roles now and again. They're more fun.

Henry Brubaker (Robert Redford) enters the Wakefield State Penitentiary as a prisoner. There aren't enough beds for the prisoners sent there. The only way to ensure that you'll get one is to pay a bribe to a trustee. There are more bed frames, but they are falling apart and don't have mattresses. There isn't enough food, and what food there is, is disgusting. Prisoners even have to pay to be treated by the doctor (Roy Poole). As Brubaker and the others are being brought in, a prisoner is put on their bus who was shot trying to escape. They never do find out what happened to him, but they never see him again. One day, Walter (Freeman) goes a bit crazy, and Brubaker reveals himself to be the warden, who has gone undercover to find out exactly what's going wrong at the prison. As warden, he wants to resolve the problems being had at the prison, but he quickly learns that people are not, in general, interested in improving conditions for prisoners.

This is based on true events. Including the discovery of bodies behind the prison and the fact that those higher up the chain of command weren't interested in improving conditions for the prisoners. Though the way Brubaker got to know the prison before making himself known is not part of the original story of Thomas O. Murton, the historical figure on whom Brubaker is based, it is speculated that it is instead based on a former warden of Sing Sing who had himself interred at a different New York State penitentiary to get a feel for conditions as a prisoner. Whether that's true or not, it at very least makes for a good story and gets the attention. It's also certainly true that the story of the prison is not a pleasant one. That field wasn't just where those who died of natural causes while prisoners were buried. The real-life prisoners eventually sued over conditions and got the prison closed because their treatment was unconstitutional.

The people in the area of the fictional Wakefield are not interested in having the conditions in the prison improved. Either they are getting something out of it or else they believe that the prisoners are getting exactly what they deserve. Now, Brubaker is very honest at the beginning; he believes that the vast majority of the prisoners under his command are guilty of the crimes they were convicted of, and he has no qualms about making them serve their sentences. He doesn't even have a problem with having the prisoners work, provided that they actually get the fruits of their own labours. Why should they eat canned chili while the beef they raise gets sold to local restaurants at discount prices? But of course, the owners of those local restaurants are quite happy with the deal they have. The local contractor put a shoddy roof on the bunkhouse, and when it collapsed, there was nothing anyone could do. The roof wasn't insured--though some nonexistent farm equipment was.

I'm considerably worried about the idea of all the positions of trust in the prison's being filled by prisoners. Don't get me wrong; I do believe that prisoners can be rehabilitated, and I do believe that there are plenty of positions in a prison that can be filled with prison labour. Heck, come to that, it wouldn't be bad to teach them some decent skills, which would help on the assumption that any of these people are ever getting out. But the head guard, "Dickie" Coombes (Yaphet Kotto), is a prisoner. Another person I recognized, Everett McGill in one of his first roles as Eddie Caldwell, also appears to be both a prisoner and a guard. The people on the towers are expressly stated to be prisoners, and the people guarding the work teams as they go out into the fields are guards. This does not strike me as a sensible way to run a prison, and I can't understand why anyone would allow it. Yes, various authority figures speak disdainfully of the idea of spending more money on prisons, but that's still just weird.
February 22, 2013
Not your average prison movie....
½ February 6, 2013
A quite interesting movie prison drama about the fight against the etsablished wrongful practices in prisons. Undoubtedly, very idealistic but maybe that's what a movie needs sometimes. Redford is good as the new inmate. I barely recognized the young(er) Morgan Freeman. It's not the movie you will watch multiple times but it's solid entertainment for the first viewing.
½ January 23, 2013
Could have been better, yet still a interesting movie about a guy who is unwilling to give in on corruption.
½ October 28, 2012
Considering that when I typed "Brubaker" in the search a movie called Snuff came up first, I would say that this movie was probably better. a prison movie but from the warden's perspective. And he wasn't even a sadistic prick warden. strange. I enjoyed the story but it seemed to be missing something that I can't quite put my finger on.

2009 Movies: 52
½ September 6, 2012
Very clever intro to Redford's character!
½ September 2, 2012
Great Job by Redford
July 23, 2012
Il ne manque qu'un fil rouge a BRUBAKER pour etre un film reellement passionnant. Cette petite chose l'empeche meme d'etre inoubliable, ce qui est dommage, tant l'interpretation (et la fin du film) sont parfaites. STUART ROSENBERG dirige sans genie un film qui ne manque pas sa cible, mais qui manque de cinema. Dommage.
½ June 22, 2012

"You gotta stop digging...because you have been salaryed to run one of the best conceved prisons in the country, sir. Because although Wakefeild is admittedly an imperfect institution, much like America herself, she is none the lessa grand experiment. Goverment of the man, for the man, by the man.-Senator Charles Hite (John McMartin)
June 14, 2012
Gritty, Bleeding-heart prison drama!!
Super Reviewer
½ 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.
April 25, 2012
Typical 80's drama felt more like it was made for tv.
February 24, 2012
"Brubaker" is a slow-moving and brutal look at corruption in the prison system. It leaves nothing to the imagination and just didn't make for an enjoyable viewing experience. It is hard to believe that the corruption in this story is based on the events of a real prison but the realization that it is true did not help me to justify the graphic brutality. Unlike "Shawshank," the crimes of the inmates are of no consequence. Instead, this film focuses on the treatment of inmates regardless of crime. Henry Brubaker is an awesome character and Robert Redford acts the role with expertise, particularly through the emotions in his eyes during the final scene; however, great acting can only do so much when you keep falling asleep because it moves at a snail's pace. The real reason to watch this film is for an early appearance by Morgan Freeman. I was legitimately frightened by his unstable state of mind and, though it only lasted for 5 minutes, it was the most worthwhile part of this film. I also enjoyed M. Emmett Walsh's short appearance. The film has its moments of greatness but there are not enough of them to make it worth sitting through the torture of these prisoners.
Super Reviewer
February 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
½ February 8, 2012
70%. Meaty message of the mass murderous inhumane punitive intolerance opportunistic exploitative corruption of the whole lot of reactionary demogoguers working handinhand with phony leveragers of superficial liberal selection of reforms toward the same genocidal grip of status quo tyranny.
January 15, 2012
Robert Redford. Was pretty good if I recall right. Watched when I was ten.
December 30, 2011
Brubaker is a strong drama and the type of thing Robert Redford does well. Its an inspirational tale of a man who tries to change things for good, but is stopped at every turn by a system that doesn't want change. An allegory of all too many events in human history.
½ November 20, 2011
Good edge rarely seen from Redford
½ August 30, 2011
Henry Brubaker: "I don't see playing politics with the truth."
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