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1 rating: 3.0
A movie directed by Stuart Rosenberg

When Brubaker (Robert Redford) comes to a small state prison to be its new warden, he's horrified by what he sees. Prisoners are sold as slaves, and even decent food can't be obtained without cold, hard cash. So the enraged warden tries to set matters … see full wiki

Tags: Movies, Dramas
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Release Date: 1980
MPAA Rating: R
1 review about Brubaker

Brubaker - 1980

  • Jan 28, 2011
Pros: solid acting, good script

Cons: DVD release is horrible

The Bottom Line:
"Can't ya hear them singin'
Mm, I'm goin' home one of these days
All day long they're singin'
(Hooh! aah!) (hooh! aah!)
That's the sound of the men working on the chain ga-a-ang"
~Sam/Charles Cooke

Director Stuart Rosenberg brought us Brubaker back in 1980.  Although I didn't see a rating, there are enough implied and visual aspects and salty language to the movie to probably warrant an R rating, although I've seen much worse.  It was nominated for two awards, winning one.

The Movie:
The setting is Wakefield State Penitentiary, Arkansas.  Reportedly a corrupt institution, a new warden shows up to clean things up and find out just where the corruption originated.  In order to do this he arrives undercover as a prisoner.  Although he spent only a short time undercover, he felt he had seen enough to start his renewal campaign.

Thinking he has the backing of some high powered political friends, he charges forth to bring truth, justice, and the American way.

The Actors:
Robert Redford shows up as new warden, Henry Brubaker.  He offers enough cleanness and creditability to the position but also shows compassion and empathy for the prisoners.  He doesn't mind getting down and dirty with them, on all levels.

He is joined by a very young and boyish looking David Keith as one of the inmates, Larry Bullen.  Bullen is a bit headstrong, sort of that James Dean rebel type, but recognizes that Brubaker is fair and wants to improve conditions. 

Other inmates in major roles are Yaphet Kotto and Morgan Freeman, both showing their characters as leaders but perhaps a little 'on the take' as well.  Jane Alexander plays a prissy, two-faced, part as Brubakers confident, Lillian Gray.

Since this was based on an actual character, Tom Murton, some of this has to be partially true.  Is there corruption in the penal system?  Without a doubt.  However the way Brubaker entered the system as a prisoner then outted himself the way he did, I think the guards and others in command [with rifles] would have shown a bit more gumption. 

I can only imagine how the viewing public must have received this film when it was released.  It reeks of other like films, generally centered in southern climates, full of abuse, fraud, corruption, and abuse of power.  However with today's audience, it seems practically tame after some of the things we have witnessed on the nightly news.  Using the clean cut, boyish, Redford for the part brought it down to the every man level we could identify with however.

If it attempted to make some statement about prison reform, it failed a bit since it is evident that corruption was going to win out in this instance.  Now instead of grousing about indignities to the prisoners, we are more likely to feel the people on the outside of the walls are being the ones mistreated.   With the introduction of computers, college courses, and other freedoms available, we often wonder why our dollars are spent this way.  

One thing I did notice repeatedly.  This was supposed to be centered in Arkansas, although filmed in Ohio.  Unfortunately the Ohio license plates are readily seen throughout the movie ... tsk, tsk ... As an ex-Ohioian I had no trouble spotting them easily.

The DVD release did not transfer well, often washed out, and sound was atrocious.  No extras except obligatory trailers.

Another point of question, although I liked the interplay of words, was when Captain Renfro leaves the prison.  He turns to Brubaker and says "Smartest thing you ever did was come in here incognizant; dumbest was steppin' forward."   While your brain might hear incognito in lieu of incognizant, I wonder if they truly meant the latter, which was highly appropriate in this instance.


This is an entry into the January Lean-n-Mean contest.

Brubaker - 1980

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January 30, 2011
This movie always held a fond memory to me, since it was one of those last films that my late father took me to as a kid. Thanks!
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