Robert Duvall is framed for a crime by his nefarious uncle John Huston. Duvall is sent to a dirty, violent Mexican prison and his wife Jill Ireland wants to get him out. She hires Charles Bronson to plan and execute a breakout.
Ho-hum standard 1970’s action commences.
Breakout is loosely based on a real prison break that took place in 1971. Knowing there’s some truth behind this story – with the added Hollywood exaggeration and artistic license of course – should have made the movie a bit more exciting to watch.
True story or not the movie ends up quite boring.
This was during Bronson’s career peak. By the late 60’s he finally managed to elevate himself out of just playing supporting roles in ensemble movies and began headlining one action movie after another. This trajectory kept him busy throughout the 70’s and 80’s.
Some of his action movies were good, some bad, some downright terrible.
Breakout falls somewhere in that middle area. It has a handful of good things in it, but is a flick that will get you restless while watching it and you’ll probably forget about it soon after.
The movie has a pretty decent cast – Huston, Duvall, Randy Quaid, an attractive Sheree North – but they’re not enough to elevate the movie above b-movie, drive-in cheese. Huston’s character seems like he was just clumsily shoehorned into this movie. It’s like they had him for a day, shot all his scenes in his office and dropped them in throughout the movie.
One big positive in Breakout is Bronson himself. Typically he would play these mono-syllabic characters, who don’t have much more personality than engaging in macho action, spouting out a few brief one-liners and staring coldly to anyone who got within range of him.
In Breakout Bronson plays a much more animated, lighthearted character than usual. He’s talkative, says jokes and comes off as more a likable guy than in most of his other action movies. I could see sitting down with this character, having some drinks and having a fun evening with the guy!
Breakout has a few action bits to get your attention. Most of it is low-grade 70’s action stunt type of stuff. The two biggest action bits I liked was a guy falling off a helicopter through a roof of a building. That one stunt looked pretty good.
But the biggest moment I took away from Breakout was the final demise of a bad guy via an airplane propeller. It’s not that it looks good, but because it’s so incredibly bad! It’s a laugh worthy moment that was real high point in this movie for me. It was an especially satisfying moment after how badly the film had dragged to get there. I rewound it a few times to re-watch that prop death. It’s one of the funniest deaths of a bad guy I’ve seen in awhile.
As for the rest of the movie, it plods along and every now it’s punctuated by those few highlights. For a movie about a prison break, there’s not a heck of a lot of excitement or suspense to it. It’s shot pretty poorly and plays like a low-budget made-for-TV movie.
It’s a shame. Breakout could have been a little gem on Bronsan’s resume, instead it’s just another by-the-numbers, uneventful Saturday night time killer. Bronson fans might dig it, but for anyone else I’d say pass, you won’t be missing much.