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Brute Force back to product details

Existential Escape
written by peterme August 8, 2002 - 12:47 PM PDT
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
As a fan of Jules Dassin's work (Naked City, Night and the City, Rififi), I looked forward to seeing this earlier effort of his. While not on par with his best, it's a solid flick with a good story and many interesting touches.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this movie is how incidental the "star", Burt Lancaster is. It's as if Dassin didn't quite know what to do with him, so involved him as little as possible. He's easily the least interesting character, a brooding cipher with a singular-mindedness devoted to escaping.
As the other review here mentioned, Hume Cronyn has a devil of a time chewing scenery as the prissy sadistic captain of the prison guard.
What really makes the movie, though, are all the touches. It's an amazing ensemble cast, providing a rich sense of character for about a dozen of the parts. Then there's "Calypso," the singing prisoner whose brief melodies either address what people are feeling or tie actions together. This songman is an odd device, but it works in this allegorical setting.
Anyway, a decent flick, worth the rental.

Hume Cronyn Rocks
written by tboot June 24, 2002 - 10:17 AM PDT
6 out of 6 members found this review helpful
Prison movies are rarely merry romps, but the 1947 prison drama Brute Force is a particularly ferocious slice of post-war angst. It presents us with a very metaphorical Prison; an existential hell-hole from which "nobody ever really escapes." The plot focuses on the inmates of cell R17, which includes Burt Lancaster at his most laconic as Joe Collins, who's got an escape plan that'll send the whole prison population pouring out the front gates. Unfortunately, head prison guard Captain Munsey knows about it. Collins knows he knows, but won't call it off. "We're all dead anyway," he snarls.

Remember twinkly old Hume Cronyn from Cocoon and batteries not included? As the evil Captain Munsey, he steals the show. This venal little martinet has clearly studied the Nazi prison camp commandant manual, but he's replaced the German accent with a pissy delivery more suited to a supercilious DMV employee. He's awfully fond of that dashing uniform and the control it wields as he sashays through his rounds, or tortures inmates with a rubber hose while Wagner thunders from his record player. He's pure, unadulterated, corrupted power. It's a supremely unnerving portrayal, both saucy and sadistic. Watch that lusty smile on his lips when he finally gets to machine gun a yard full of inmates during the violent denouement. You'll forget Cocoon in a hurry.


(Average 7.10)
30 Votes
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