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The Defiant Ones
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The Defiant Ones More at IMDbPro »

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34 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

The Poitier/Curtis Jail-Break Classic

Author: mdm-11 from United States
2 October 2004

Sidney Poitier continues to break race barriers with this formula jail-break drama. Teamed with Tony Curtis, the escaped prisoners encounter many situations, where their difference in color seems to matter more than the fact that both are fugitives from the law. Throughout the film, the viewer empathizes with the escapees, figuring that they always got a bum deal in life. A scene towards the end, where a single mother sees a chance to "hook up" with Curtis, shows how Curtis, although often disagreeing, even physically fighting with Poitier, still sees Poitier as an equal in their quest for freedom. Rather than "sell out" his friend, he would rather die trying to save him. The inevidable ending (remember that one of the rules in Old Hollywood was that the bad guys can never win)is quite moving.

Definitely among the established Hollywood Classics. Although many of the "old ways" have changed drastically since the late 50s, this film offers insight into a piece of Americana many people living today can still recall. An important piece of Film History, and highly recommended.

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32 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

Covers A Lot Of Ground

8/10
Author: jonathon_naylor from Manitoba, Canada
9 October 2006

This Stanley Kramer classic covers a lot of ground -- literally and figuratively. Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier are white and black inmates who, while chained together at the wrist, escape their captors when their prison truck hits the ditch. Now Curtis is forced to put aside his prejudice and work with his new partner in getting the cuffs off and ensuring their newfound freedom lasts.

As its reputation suggests, THE DEFIANT ONES is first and foremost a study of racism. It has a deliberate unpleasantness about it as it brings to life the unsavory attitudes of the past. A young boy who stumbles across the convicts races to the arms of Curtis for fear Poitier will hurt him. A lonely farm wife who takes the men in has to be told that yes, Poitier deserves a meal, too. And as the men face hanging at the hands of some rednecks, Curtis appeals to them on the grounds a white man can't be lynched. Yet the film carries no tired, moralistic messages, instead allowing the racism on display to speak for itself.

THE DEFIANT ONES goes well beyond its central theme. It's an exciting adventure, along the lines of THE FUGITIVE, as our anti-heroes elude their captors and try to survive in the unforgiving wilderness. It's a story of raw human emotions at work and of overcoming adversity by putting our trust in others. And it's a story of loyalty and the capacity of the human heart to change. We come away with the sense that the people involved with this picture knew they were part of something truly special.

Though he was given second billing, Poitier easily steals the show with his dignified performance. He brilliantly conveys the tortured, yet still upbeat soul of a young black man who came of age in a time of unimaginable difficulty. He often doesn't have to speak to let us know the pain he has and will continue to endure. Poitier proves that critics aren't just being kind when they cite him as one of the great black actors of his or any other era (though as we see here, he is definitely no singer!).

THE DEFIANT ONES moves just a touch slow at times, particularly when the focus is placed on Curtis. But this is a movie as important as it is worth watching.

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22 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Another Stanley Kramer great.

Author: yenlo from Auburn, Me
10 August 1999

A great job by Stanley Kramer on this film. Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier turn in stellar performances as two convicts who get an unexpected shot at escape but are held together by a length of chain. They must learn to overcome their racial dislike of each other in order to survive and gain their freedom. But will they? The film is shot in black and white and had it been shot in color it would not have been as good. A remake was done some years later which was passable but didn't match this original version.

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23 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Two chained convicts tried to escape

8/10
Author: esteban1747 from Spain
15 August 2002

I have seen this film several times and each time I am feeling that this is one of the best drama I've ever seen. There are new remakes of this film, but the original is the best. Acting of Sidney Poitier is without any doubt superb, while Tony Curtis did also his best. The director, Stanley Kramer, chose a very good and interesting plot, how two different persons can have better relationship and interests when they fight together for their lives. No matter if one is black and the other white, or no matter if one is atheist and the other Christian, at the end they will understand each other because their cause is only one and is the same, to become free.

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16 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Cellmates and Soulmates

8/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
8 August 2007

There is this story going around that Robert Mitchum refused the part Tony Curtis eventually played because he did not want to work with a black man. The actual story is that Mitchum who did spend time on a southern chain gang said there was no way that back in the day a black and white man would have been chained together in the first place. In fact Stanley Kramer must have taken the critique in stride because sheriff Theodore Bikel has a line of explanation saying the warden had a sense of humor.

Though the film dates a bit, it's still quite dramatic even now. Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier chained together have an unplanned jail break while being transported. Curtis has all the attitudes typical of his time and Poitier doesn't take nothing off anybody. Still joined at the hip as they are, they do need each other and find eventually there's more that unites than divides them.

Besides Theodore Bikel in a strange role for him as a laconic southern sheriff, look for good performances from Lon Chaney, Jr. who runs a turpentine work camp who saves Curtis and Poitier from a lynching and Cara Williams as a trampy white trash farm lady whose needs haven't been met for a while.

Tony Curtis in an incredible act of generosity insisted on equal billing for Sidney Poitier since due to the nature of the film, they are on screen together for most of it. That act of generosity may have cost him an Oscar for both he and Poitier were nominated for Best Actor, but lost to David Niven for Separate Tables. An act that rankles Tony Curtis to this day because at the drop of a hat he will insist Niven got 'his' Oscar.

Despite the sour grapes, The Defiant Ones though dated is still a good bit of cinema.

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15 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

The Best Movie on Racism

8/10
Author: ragosaal from Argentina
26 August 2006

Kramer's story about to escaped prisoners hooked up together, black and white, is still the best picture ever made on racism. At first they hate each other, but through their run for freedom they even become true friends and the different color of their skins actually disappears and they are just to men who like each other. Sidney Poitier is good as always and Tony Curtis gives what is probably his best performance ever in drama, matched only by his acting in The Boston Strangler later in 1967. The supporting cast is also good and correctly chosen. Although real action scenes are just a few, Kramer manages to keep attention permanently for viewers along with an increasing interest in how things turn out. Time has not affected the film which still stands as a big one.

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16 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

A well directed outing

Author: davidbyrne77 from Ottawa
27 November 2004

I found this film very entertaining, thanks in part from great performances by both Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis, and due to great directing by Stanley Kramer. The black and white cinematography is great, as is the story of a black man and a white man, chained together and on the run from the law, who hate each other more than captivity itself. Shared experiences and the realization that inside they are both very similar helps both men to understand each other. I also liked the friction between the gung-ho sheriff and the more laid-back, realistic one. The character of the bloodhound owner rings true to anyone who knows a person who breeds dogs. The only thing I didn't like about this film was the Poitier character's singing. I know thats its a big part of the film and it is a form of defiance on its own, but it bugged me none the less. Oh well, small criticism for a great film. But what's with woman who'll sell out her son to some guy who stumbles into her yard? Wrong priorities, I guess.

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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

The title speaks for itself. *SPOILERS*

8/10
Author: ctrout from USA
1 February 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This great film follows two escaped convicts (Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier) as they try to out run the law. The problem is that both men are chained together. The bigger problem is that one is a white southern man and the other is a black man. The viewers know that by the time the police find them, the two men may have already killed each other.

The two men form a bond with each other along the way. Each man tells their story and the other one listens. They reluctantly become friends as they go through woods, rivers, and clay pits to get to the train that leads out of town.

The two come across a house where a woman (Cara Williams) and her son are living. When they get there, they break the chain that has held them together all this time. They stay the night in the house and when Poitier falls asleep, Williams takes a liking to Curtis. In the morning, the two love birds plan to escape in a car while Poitier has to run through a swamp to get to the train.

Curtis discovers that it's a trap and runs to help Poitier. They find each other and get to the train where Poitier jumps on and reaches out to Curtis, who can't make it on to the train. Poitier realizes this and jumps off. The two fall down a hill and are captured by the police (Theodore Bikel and Charles McGraw.)

This film is a great one. It's a must see film for anyone who likes gritty action. The performances are top notch and the editing is flawless. And the story and cinematography won oscars. Truly a great film.

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15 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Superb!

Author: Tim Cox from Marietta, OH
5 March 1999

The brilliant performances of Poitier and Curtis highlight this incredible film from the great Stanley Kramer. In the finest role of his career, Curtis shines especially as the man forced to fight for survival, not only from the law, but from Poitier, who is his enemy simply because of the color of his screen. Through their fight for survival, an unlikely kinship develops. Bikel and Williams are also wonderful in key supporting roles, as is Lon Chaney Jr.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Escape from the chain gang

8/10
Author: jotix100 from New York
1 October 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Stanley Kramer was a Hollywood producer who turned into a director. He shows he had a promise when he undertook the direction of this production that involved race relations in the America of the 1950s, where segregation was still in place. To even set the story in the Deep South, as he did here, shows that Kramer was clearly not afraid of whatever repercussions the movie would get, or the problems associated for showing this situation to wide audiences.

Basically, this is the story of two men who are shackled together, one white, one black, as they are being transported to a forced labor camp. When their bus suffers an accident, Joker, the white man, and Noah, the black one, see it as their opportunity to escape. There is one problems though, they can't get the chain that binds their wrists to be cut, however much they try.

The sheriff of the place where the accident happens, quickly organizes a manhunt throughout the area. It will be only a matter of time when these two convicts will be caught. What starts as two men trying to avoid being captured, turns out into a sort of friendship between Joker and Noah. Joker, will never accept Noah, and vice versa, but they must stick together if they want to survive.

Tony Curtis, who up to this point in his career, had only been given light roles to play, is the unexpected surprise of the film. In fact, this is one of the best roles he ever played in the movies, bar none. Sidney Poitier, on the other hand, plays against type in the movies. We always saw him as the decent black man who was a noble creature and wasn't appreciated. In this film, none of those qualities are shown by his character, who must deal with the burden of having to drag Joker along at the same time he is trying to save his own skin.

The supporting cast made an excellent contribution to Mr. Kramer's direction. The excellent Theodore Bikel played Sheriff Max Muller with conviction. Charles McGraw, Leon Chaney Jr., Claude Akins, and Cora Williams contribute to make this film better than it could have been.

The brilliant black and white photography by Sam Leavitt enhanced the film. Stanley Kramer deserved credit for bringing this story into the screen at a time when no one was doing anything as daring as what he did.

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