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Frank D. Gilroy
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"Breakout" is easily one of Charles Bronson's best starring vehicles. For the most part his early 70's films fell into two categories: either junky (Violent City) or pretentious (The Mechanic). The first Death Wish film was thought-provoking, but marred by sickeningly graphic and misogynist violence; the sequels had the violence with none of the art. His late-70s films were quickie garbage (Death Hunt, Love and Bullets). His 80's films featured a sickly prurient violence level and a sleepwalking star.
But Bronson did have quite a string of quality films in the mid-70s: "Breakheart Pass (1974)," "Hard Times" (1975), "Mr. Majestic" (1974), "From Noon Til Three" (1976), and "Telefon" (1977)were all quality films in which Bronson's star quality, charisma, and acting ability was able to shine through.
The best of Bronson's mid-70s output in my opinion, however, is Tom Gries' "Breakout." The story has drama, humor, and tremendous forward momentum, the cast is superior (Robert Duvall, Randy Quaid, John Huston, and the always-underrated Jill Ireland). Most importantly, Charles Bronson breaks out of his silent-and-stony persona and creates a character that has depth, humour, and humanity as well as toughness.
Those who complain that this film has little action have obviously not seen many of Bronson's films. Very few of them are actually what could be called "action movies". For the most part they were melodramas with some gunplay, the occasional fight, and a maybe car chase near the end. "Breakout" is actually as much or more of an action film than most of Bronson's others. I think that most folks who mistakenly lament the lack of "action" in this film compared to his others are confusing "action" with sick, perverse violence. Look at "Death Wish" for instance: Bronson shoots some guys. That's the extent of the action, if you exclude the graphic rape scene near the beginning. He points a gun and shoots. He rarely runs. There's never a car chase. It's a melodrama, not an action film. `Breakout' has a helicopter escape, a fistfight on a dark runway as a twin-prop plane approaches at breakneck speed, and an attitude that make it more of an action film.
So "Breakout" doesn't have graphic torture, or rape, or someone getting sodomized with a nightstick. I'll settle for a great story, fine acting, cool action, and interesting characters.
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