Lucas Jackson (Paul Newman) is sent to prison after knocking the heads from parking meters. Once there he is incorporated into a chain gang, cleaning the sides of the road. Initially he loses the confidence of his fellow prisoners by refusing to conform to their ways including refusing to take a nickname.
Eventually he befriends another inmate - nicknamed Dragline (George Kennedy) - who begins to respect Luke as it becomes more obvious Luke refuses to conform to the guards methods either. As Luke finds though, every time he tries to beat the system it'll hit him back twice as hard.
Bizarrely, in prison films, it is rarely the guards that are seen as the good guys. Often portrayed as over-violent, malevolent people, it has become common ground to cast an anti-hero against them who the audience can support despite the obvious faults of that prisoner.
Cool Hand Luke is one such film. The character of Luke is perhaps one of the most highly exaggerated anti-heroes in all of cinema, attempting at every corner to try and get one up on the system that every other person just goes along with.
With the addition of a simply brilliant script, Cool Hand Luke takes the theme to a whole new level, and Paul Newman fits the job perfectly. His laid back attitude and fantastic comic timing add amusement where only bleakness should be found. George Kennedy, as the hard-man Dragline is equally good and together they make quite the double-act.
Droll, sarcastic and thoroughly entertaining, Cool Hand Luke is definitely one for anyone's to-watch list.