Monday, August 8, 2011

Breaking Point (1976)

Yet another in the endless stream of vigilante flicks that spewed forth after the success of Straw Dogs (1971) and Death Wish (1974), this Canadian actioner starring long-forgotten ’70s leading man Bo Svenson falls short in terms of characterization, drama, logic, and thrills. The last exploitation flick that eclectic director Bob Clark made before going mainstream with 1979’s Murder by Decree, the picture is competent to the point of utter homogenization, as if an editor threw pieces of similar films up in the air and then assembled the pieces in more or less the right order to create a Frankenstein hodgepodge of a vigilante movie. In other words, everything in Breaking Point was done better elsewhere. As is the norm in the genre, a decent man gets on the wrong side of bad people, then takes all he can take until he reaches his—well, it’s all in the title, isn’t it? Michael McBain (Svenson) is an unassuming judo instructor (convenient!) who witnesses a mob-related crime, then enters witness protection under the care of cop Frank Sirrianni (Robert Culp) while preparing to testify against the soldiers of crime boss Vincent Karbone (John Colicos). Predictably, Karbone’s people reach McBain where he’s most vulnerable, by violently harassing the people he loves, so soon enough McBain has to unleash some of his judo whup-ass on the villains. Lacking the psychological complexity of Straw Dogs and the relentless intensity of Death Wish—or even the go-for-broke excess of a self-respecting exploitation picture—this film offers all of the shortcomings of the vigilante genre and none of the cathartic jolts. Clark’s direction is indifferent, as if he had already left the grindhouse in spirit, and Svenson is believably tough but in every other regard forgettable. Thus, the only reason to watch Breaking Point is to discover how long it takes for you to reach your napping point.

Breaking Point: SQUARE

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