‘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.
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.
Rock solid is usually the best description of him.
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…
‘s a good movie.
However, you didn’t mention Hard Times in your “Bronson was great aktually” list.
I think I did!
….did you edit that in….?
No, it was there all along!
LOL is overused, but “Robert Duvall with hair” gave me a literal chuckle….
As it should. Celebrate it while you can.
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.
This is peak Bronson. Mr Majestyk levels of methodical cool…better than Death Wish…
How does it compare to the Mechanic?
In the same ballpark…
Welp, added it to my watch list. Now we’ll have to see if the incoming snowstorm tonight knocks out our internet or not…
No snowstorm stops Chuck…
Maybe not, but it sure can stop the pansy communication companies
Are you about to be snowed in?
24hr storm is heading our way about 8-9pm. 11-17inches of snow predicted, sigh…
Keep you off work?
Unfortunately, with it not starting until tonight, it won’t affect work today…
It will just make the next couple of weeks a real bear though…
Cocaine or Paddington?
And I still haven’t received my clear coke yet, fyi…
Can’t supply during a storm…
Expecting some of the same storm here tonight. Not supposed to be that bad though. Calling for 10 inches.
I wouldn’t mind so much except we’ve had such an easy winter that this feels bad…
Oh er, missus!
I was so sad when those little kids got him killed in Magnificent Seven. Don’t think I’ve seen this one.
It’s on Prime, that’s your Saturday night sorted!
Only if there’s absolutely nothing new I’d rather do.
Can’t beat Charles Bronson. Not on a Saturday night.
Live or dead Charles Bronson?
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.
This one has room for growth. It’s a nice little runner, not too much mileage, won’t let you down!
Do you have that moustache?
It’s in a jar in the cold cellar along with the pickles and pear jam.
Shouldn’t it be on your face?
Why would I want Charles Bronson’s moustache on my face? That’s creepy.
Maybe if you were kissing him and it became detached?
He only had the moustache while he was alive, and I wasn’t kissing him then.
But it would be fine to kiss him now he’s dead?
You are a strange fish.
He keeps getting better looking.
Not is he is rotting and his mustache is coming off. Put him back the way you found him!
I already told you the moustache is in a jar with the rest of the preserves. As for the rest, I’m afraid that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men . . .
Why are you hoarding Charles Bronson’s body parts?
I’m just keeping the moustache someplace safe so it doesn’t get out and hurt anyone.
How could that happen?