At the apex of his power as a top ten box-office superstar, Robert Redford began making sure that many of his films contained not only plentiful entertainment value but also addressed social issues which he deemed important. Whether it was the mistreated environment, the sordid political climate of the era, or, in the case of Stuart Rosenberg’s Brubaker, prison reform, his films often offered a great deal of bang for the buck. While it’s certainly not perfect, Brubaker remains an entertaining and thought-provoking film.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono), English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), French 1.0 DD (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Run Time: 2 Hr. 11 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 05/07/2013
The first twenty to thirty minutes of the movie offerss a scorching examination of the seamy, corrupt world of a southern penitentiary. While minimum security facilities have air conditioning, good food, and color television-style comforts, the wretched world of maximum security work farms is most startlingly captured in the exposition to Brubaker.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
The remainder of the film goes in a somewhat different direction. Redford’s Brubaker reveals himself as the new reform warden who, after having witnessed the atrocities in the cafeteria and kitchen (maggot-infested food, supplies stolen and sold on the open market), the infirmary (no doctor on call and wounded inmates ignored), even in the warden’s office (where the real work is handled by others while the previous warden collected his pay check and his share of the booty), begins making changes. Of course, the deck is stacked against him from the start from the crooked prison board who has been milking the prison dry for generations to the prison’s own trustees (inmates who have been given special privileges and have exploited them to the detriment of the other inmates). The film’s entertainment value is squashed just a bit knowing that the system is too big, too powerful, and too obstinate to listen to any of his criticisms or to approve any of his suggestions for change.
The central crime that Brubaker uncovers during his tenure as warden involves the discovery that convicts have been systematically murdered with their corpses buried on prison grounds. W. D. Richter’s screenplay doesn’t make it clear who has been killed (though we assume it’s people who know of the corrupt prison hierarchy and who are thus murdered to silence them), and this confusion, coupled with a cast of quite a few unsavory characters on the outside of the prison walls (many of the inmates are rather respectable and charismatic) makes Brubaker a movie with some serious internal problems.
Performances, however, are solid as can be. Redford is his reliably stoic self, but more information on the character’s situation before he arrived at the prison might have given Redford a more developed character to play (when the prison board questions his qualifications, we realize they don’t know any more about him than we do, quite odd considering he had to have been hired by them to do the job). Jane Alexander as always contributes a winning portrait of a concerned governor’s aide who acts as liaison to Brubaker. We suspect Alexander’s Lillian is also carrying a torch for the handsome warden, but there is no romantic notion to be found in this movie. Yaphet Kotto as a prison trustee who oversees the African-American prisoners gives a full bodied performance that makes him stand out in an unusually large supporting cast. Other inmates are acted well by Morgan Freeman (who has one standout sequence as a prisoner gone batty in solitary confinement), Matt Clark (the warden’s clerk who is not to be trusted), Tim McIntire (the most corrupt of the trustees), and David Keith (the inmate who seems to grow the most of the ones Brubaker takes under his wing).
Stuart Rosenberg (who replaced Bob Rafelson mid-movie) does a fine job directing particularly in the early scenes though even the sordid prison conditions are no match for some previous prison movies or some that were to come in the next twenty years. The lengthy middle section of the movie does drag a bit and might have been trimmed to lower the film’s somewhat overlong 131-minute running time.
The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is beautifully presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is excellent and consistent throughout, and color is solid without ever seeming too overdone or inappropriately saturated. Flesh tones likewise seem nicely realistic and appealing. Black levels and shadow detail are simply wonderful, and the film's grain structure seems to have been retained. The movie has been divided into 20 chapters.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The disc offers two DTS-HD Master Audio encodes: 5.1 and 1.0. The mono, of course, will be the one truest to the theatrical release, but there’s not that much difference between it and the 5.1 mix apart from a slight spread of Lalo Schifrin’s music score across the fronts and a little into the rears. Dialogue has been well recorded and is always intelligible. There are no age-related artifacts with this sound encode.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Theatrical Trailer (1:34, SD)
Special Features Rating: 1/5
Three TV Spot Ads (1:39, SD): can be played together or separately.
Brubaker is solid entertainment mixing some dramatic action with a social message about prison reform that features a superb cast of actors doing outstanding work. While it won’t rank at the top of most people’s list of recommended Robert Redford movies, it’s a fine (if flawed) film nonetheless.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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