Sentenced to work on a Southern chain gang for defacing parking meters while drunk, rebellious Luke Jackson (Newman) soon finds himself on the outs with prison authorities. A battle of wills ensues, with Luke becoming a hero to his fellow prisoners for his nervy refusal to submit. The Captain (Martin), however, wants his wards to "get their mind right," and won't sleep till he's broken Luke for good.
"Luke" is a work that transformed Newman from movie star to anti-authoritarian folk hero. Clearly the actor was attracted to the dispossessed (in life and in film). His “Luke” is two things at once: a loser whose drunkenness lands him on a chain gang, but also a tough individualist equipped with personal courage and a defiant spirit. Top-notch support comes from Martin as Luke's wormy nemesis, and Kennedy, who won an Oscar for his turn as Luke's loyal pal, Dragline.