What? You mean you didn’t see John Hughes’s follow-up to The Breakfast Club, catching up with John Bender several year after his detention on Sherman High School? This 4th of July Weekend, we invite you to celebrate the USA with this rare, vintage, all-American classic.
John Hughes pretty much created the teen genre with beloved films like Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller and Pretty in Pink, but at some personal cost. An illness suffered by Molly Ringwald while shooting the latter film led to a hasty rewrite; instead of going off with Duckie Dale (Jon Cryer), her long-suffering beau, Andie (Ringwald) chooses Blaine, Andrew McCarthy, a rich kid who has never listened to or understood her. Hughes literally made a film with the opposite meaning to the one he intended, and although he tried to correct the error with Some Kind of Wonderful, the audience had ebbed away, and the auteur retreated into light comedy of National Lampoon and Home Alone.
Except he didn’t. In 1989, Hughes offered hot director Chris Columbus two scripts; one was Home Alone, the other, a sequel to The Breakfast Club. When Columbus chose the former, Hughes took it on the chin and made his sequel under heavy cover, changing the names if not the characters. And so we have Reach The Rock, in which we follow the character of John Bender years after The Breakfast Club. We first see Bender lobbing an American flag, complete with pole, through the window of a small-torn store; he’s lost none of his desire to rage against the social-political machine.
Now played by Alessandro Nivola rather than Judd Nelson, Bender has gained in terms of vocabulary; ‘violence is the whore of the powers than be’ he solemnly intones. Bender is caught in a battle of egos, much like the one he had with his teacher (Paul Gleeson in TBC) but the stakes are higher now. Bender is arrested by cop Quinn (William Sadler) and locked-up behind the bars of a police-station in Shermerville. But Bender is working an angle, forcing Quinn to face up to past wrongs; his plan is ingenious, stealing keys to locked cells and police-cars, sneaking out of jail to commit all kinds of anarchy then slipping back into captivity. Bender’s actions create the impression of a mini-crime wave, but the police are stumped; Bender is the only person who could not possibly be guilty, by dint of his current, on-going incarceration. There’s also time for some romance with his monied high-school sweetheart Lise, played by Brooke Langton; she’s very much in the style of The Breakfast Club’s Claire (Molly Ringwald).
Why haven’t you seen Reach the Rock? Hughes concealed the nature of this sequel, hoping that audiences would find it and assess it on its own merits. But Bill Ryan’s film has the same energy of The Breakfast Club, with percussive musical cues, moments of intense confrontation leavened by down-time and moody contemplation. And the always watchable Nivola looks much like Judd Nelson at points; you could be watching a continuation of the Breakfast Club if you squint a little.
Reach the Rock is a genuinely lost film; you can buy a VHS for an inflated price, but it’s yet to be pressed on DVD or released on streaming; it’s near impossible to see. But it’s a great, long-lost American movie that dissects class conflict with a scalpel. Fans of The Breakfast Club , and they are legion, simply have to see this film; it’s worth rehabilitation for sure, a great work from a cinematic icon that he chose to bury due to a late-in-life lack of confidence. In retrospect, Hughes should have held his nerve. The Breakfast Club posits that when you grow old, your heart dies. Reach the Rock contains Hughes’s last words on the subject of teenage life, and the heart still beats strongly here.