Friday, December 30, 2011

Breakout (1975)

If you set your brain on standby mode to groove on cheap thrills and star power, the Charles Bronson action picture Breakout is enjoyably pulpy. In the convoluted story, unlucky American Jay (Robert Duvall) gets framed and thrown into a nasty Mexican jail, thanks to the machinations of his evil father, Harris Wagner (John Huston); it seems Jay is in a position to expose some of Harris’ nefarious activities. Unaware of Papa’s real agenda, Jay’s dutiful wife, Ann (Jill Ireland), conspires to get Jay released. When legal procedures prove fruitless, she attempts bribing guards and tries smuggling in tools for an escape attempt, but nothing works. Eventually, Ann is introduced to Nick Colton (Bronson), a small-time pilot willing to break the law for a buck. After a few false starts, Nick contrives an audacious plan to fly a helicopter into the jail. Drama, such as it is, stems from Ann’s difficulty balancing her devotion to Jay and her attraction to Nick, plus the challenges Nick encounters while recruiting accomplices for a possible suicide mission. All of this is palatable in a Saturday-matinee kind of a way, which means that Breakout is never boring even though it’s never believable. The movie suffers tonal hiccups whenever it tries to get serious, as in the subplot of Jay’s mental state deteriorating after extended incarceration, and there’s not much in the way of character development. Still, Bronson makes a charming lowlife, all bravado and sarcasm, while supporting players Sheree North and Randy Quaid offer flair as Nick’s long-suffering redneck pals. Ireland, Bronson’s frequent onscreen costar and real-life wife, is a bit spunkier than usual, and Duvall adds a measure of gravitas by playing his prison scenes with great intensity. (Huston is wasted in a tiny role.) So, while Breakout is contrived and silly in the extreme, a few thrilling sequences (and one shockingly gory death scene) ensure that fans of manly-man action will find plenty to enjoy.

Breakout: FUNKY


Tommy Ross said...

Always loved this Bronson flick, probably more than most people. There's another great reason to watch this and her name is Sheree North, what a hottie! I would also say that while most real life married couples don't work that great together on screen, I think Bronson and Ireland were great.. You can definitely see the love in her eyes she had for him.

geralmar said...

Inspired by an actual event in 1971.

F. Ben Martin said...

For some reason when mega-star Burt Reynolds would play shifty, wink-in-his-eye anti-heroes, I tended to find it kind of show-offy and off-putting. Bronson here plays a role that might have been on paper better suited to Reynolds but I absolutely love what he does here. There is nothing else in Bronson's entire oeuvre that compares to this role and his gift for comedy shines - and is tempered with a beautiful humanity that anchors the entire proceeding. "I AM a professional!!"] Sheree North? Icing on the cake. Jill Ireland, never better. [Note: Your points on bizarre tonal shift are well stated - the opening scene slow-motion murder??? Comedic Randy Quaid being pummeled with rifle butts? Robert Duvall's near rape of his wife??? What the...?]