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On the County Farm With Newman and Redford

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Cinematic buddies in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting , Paul Newman and Robert Redford have long been linked together. Even in films where they’re not sharing billing, it’s hard to watch one without thinking of the other. One such juxtaposition: Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967) and Redford in Brubaker (1980). Both are stories of rebellion set in prison yards, but from opposite ends of the spectrum.

Paul Newman’s Luke doesn’t do well with rules — whether he’s smashing parking meters on the outside, or spending a night in the box for insubordination on the inside. Essentially good but deeply flawed, Luke is still searching for his purpose in life. The film speaks to how difficult it is to be a non-conformist within the bounds of polite society.

Brubaker is a slower burn. But here the hero wages a clear-eyed battle against prejudice and bureaucracy: It’s the system that’s flawed, not the man. Brubaker completed Redford’s transformation from the Sundance Kid into social reformer. Maybe he’s still a rebel, but he’s never wrong, never morally ambiguous, and he sure never spends a night in the box.

Watch both as a double feature, February 21 on AMC. Brubaker plays at 10:30AM | 9:30C; Cool Hand Luke starts at 1:30PM | 12:30C.

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