in ,



‘…a sturdy, dependable movie with a commendably brief 96 minute running time, and it looks far better on streaming than its old pan-and-scan VHS ever did…’

‘Sentenced to 28 years in prison for a crime he never committed. Only two things can get him out – a lot of money and Charles Bronson!’ Popping up on Prime for no discernible reason other than it’s a decent enough back-catalogue entry, Tom Grier’s action movie for Bronson is something of a museum piece in terms of cultural references, but certainly delivers the requisite action scenes. Bronson was a major star in the mid 70’s, and this is one of his best performances; laid-back, intense but not without humour or empathy. If you only know his stoic work in the increasingly risible Death Wish films, Bronson’s Breakout should be something of a revelation.

Based on a real-life chopper in-a prison-yard rescue, Breakout creates a fresh fictional story; John Huston plays sinister figure Harris Wagner who frames-up his son Jay (Robert Duvall with hair) and gets him sent to a Mexican prison, where even hiding in a freshly buried coffin doesn’t provide a reliable way out. Jay’s wife Ann (Bronson’s wife Jill Ireland) realises she’s got a short window to save her husband, and enlists bush pilot Nick Colton (Bronson) to drop a whirlybird into the prison yard and literally pick him up. With Randy Quaid in drag as a diversion, the scene is set for another great escape…

Breakout was a popular film back in 1975, where it was one of the first features to have a saturation release; the same year, Jaws demonstrated that the same strategy could create a goldmine. The action scenes were clearly filmed with a real helicopter, and look smarter than most 70’s Bond movies do, with Bronson a genial centre. What’s not so great is the female roles and the use of rape, albeit a fake rape, as a plot point; like the same year’s The Eiger Sanction, some of the sexual politics dialogue feels more than a little uncomfortable now. It’s also a little wild that a French fort was used for the filming; Mexico wasn’t too keen in being the backdrop for a story about how their prisons were run.

While Breakout isn’t interested enough in its own story to sort out many of the plot points beyond ‘they made it’, it’s a sturdy, dependable movie with a commendably brief 96 minute running time, and it looks far better on streaming than its old pan-and-scan VHS ever did. It’s easy to deride old Stone Face Bronson for his output, but Mr Majestyk, Breakheart Pass, Hard Times and Telefon all demonstrate why he was a deserved box-office king back in the 70’s.


Leave a Reply
  1. I’ll have seen all Bronson’s pictures, sometimes just happy he was still making them. Very underrated actor. Maybe his best work was in the early French films but this is bangup good. I even wrote about Breakout in my book on the Hollywood wide release when it set a new high – 1400 screens – for an opening. Exhibitors in first run had to agree to run the picture for four weeks. Columbia spent $3.6 million on advetising, about a third of it on television. It took $12.7 million in two weeks.

    • Yup, I was a satisfied customer. This is before Bronson became a parody of himself, he’s a rock solid centre here. Can see why this would set a trend for coast to coast marketing saturation blitz strategies.

  2. I have fond memories of From Noon Till Three. Not sure if it would stand up to a re-watch, though…..

    • Saw that on bbc back in the day. I actually like Love and Bullets too, but I think I’m alone in that…

  3. Excellent. Another to try out. I’ve been pretty pleased with most of Bronson’s output and since I stopped the Death Wish franchise with the first movie, I feel like I’ll continue to enjoy random movies of his.

  4. Sounds good. Sturdiness and dependability are two of the main qualities I look for in a movie. Is this a flick that will take me coast-to-coast without so much as an oil change? I don’t want some movie that’s going to break down as soon as I drive it off the lot.

    Bronson’s moustache was one of the evergreen horrors of cinema.


Leave a Reply