Burt Lancaster, so good at softening the blow of his own threatening bulk, in Brute Force has to exert all efforts simply to be a man, to endure the ruthless ironies of prison.
And his Joe Collins--as long as he can stand it--absolutely refuses to surrender, frankly scheming to escape, openly contemptuous of Hume Cronyn’s fascist Capt. Munsey--a glassy-eyed fetishist, stripped to the waist in his office with images of Aryan muscled figures scattered about, the little man trapped in a big problem: his own desperate desire to escape who he is by hating everyone around him. As the drunken Doc tells him, he’s not clever, he’s simply brutal.
It’s a tight spot for all of them, and Collins, still the good soldier, devises a complex, military-style campaign--armed and dangerous, and smart--to crush homegrown fascism. But the “brute force” of the title triumphs--and although the movie wants to be something like an exposé of the penal system, it ends more like King Kong, with plummeting forms and a hail of bullets, explosions and collapse, and Lancaster's Beast to mourn.