Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Just last week I spent an inordinate amount closed up in tight spaces with actor Stephen Dorff in the somewhat suspect thriller ‘Carjacked’, which at least had the benefit of having Maria Bello nearby to offset some of that uncomfortable closeness. This week there will be no such luck as we are completely locked in a box with Stephen Dorff in the more effective thriller ‘Brake’, the tale of a man caught in the middle of a terrorist plot to kill us all.

How do we go about synopsing this? Jeremy Reins (Dorff) wakes up trapped in the dark in what looks be in acrylic box with a big digital clock in front of him counting down to something. Jeremy freaks out for a minute, as any reasonable person would do, but Jeremy has some training that most people aren’t in possession of, calms himself down and start to try to figure some things out. Jeremy has some gambling issues which is why he’s in New York City in the first place, to pay off his debts, thus he figures his bookie is doing this to him. The clock ticks down to triple zero, and vehicle transporting Jeremy’s box start to move.

Then Jeremy is startled by a voice emitting from a CB radio nearby. On the other end of the line is some guy named Henry and he seems to be trapped in the exact situation that Jeremy is locked into. This cat doesn’t have Jeremy’s special brand of training and he’s completely freaking out, Jeremy tries to calm him down, and tries to extract some answers from this guy to figure out what is going down. After he gets a postcard slipped through his little slot, asking him something about something called ‘Roulette’, Jeremy knows that his bookie isn’t the one behind this thing.

Turns out Jeremy is a Secret Service agent and he is one of the very few people that has possession of a very critical piece of information vital to our nations national security. Considering Jeremy’s gambling and drinking problems, not to mention his aversion to a government bureaucrat so what would I know? Regardless, these people want this information and they want it badly and they will do anything to Jeremy, be it physical or psychological to make this happen.

Thus over the next hour or so in our time, heck if I know what the passage is in Jeremy’s time, the young man in the acrylic box will be subjected to bright lights, darkness, physical stresses, emotional stresses and that infernal digital clock that’s always ticking down to triple zero which almost always leads to something bad happening. And even though Jeremy is locked in a box in the trunk of a car, he can tell from the sounds around him that something real bad is happening outside around him, and the torture continues. Jeremy Reins is a tough nut to crack, but as you might imagine, everything isn’t always what it seems.

I’m going to have to stop giving movies credit for not boring me. True enough, I hate to be sitting in a theater watching a movie twiddling my thumbs, or if I’m at home, drifting over to the PC firing up a game of NBA 2k12. The point is that at no point was I ever bored by watching Stephen Dorff locked in an acrylic box for ninety or so minutes, which in itself is an achievement and a testament to Dorff’s solid performance, but me not being bored doesn’t make ‘Brake’ a good movie.

Focusing on the positives in this movie, directed by Gabe Torres, the director has managed to take a scenario which seems custom made for dreadful boredom, and created a film that does keep you engaged with what is going on. Of course 90% of the credit for this has to go to Stephen Dorff who obviously has to carry this movie considering he is almost this entire movie, but without a director with a steady hand and a clear vision of what he’s trying to do, at least for 98% of this movie, the best actors would flounder.

Now the script that director Gabe Torres and actor Stephen Dorff are working off of, written by Timothy Minion… note that I’m am really slow to lay into any screenwriter since almost no screenwriters script makes it intact from page to screen… but that being said, the script that they ended up going with has some odd inconsistencies in it that it make difficult for us to discuss with you without completely spoiling stuff. But these instances do stretch our ability to believe in the unfortunate situation Secret Service agent Jeremy Neal has found himself in. Then there’s the conclusion of the film, which you can imagine is loaded with all kinds of twistiness which just shatters whatever tenuous grasp on a sense of reality that ‘Brake’ was gripping on to.

Dorff was great in it though, and he pulled off this virtual one-man play without a hitch or a hiccup. Nor was it boring. But that’s not praise anymore. Movies aren’t supposed to boring. They’re supposed to tell tight, compelling, interesting stories with narratives that can withstand scrutiny, especially from people who are kind of slow… like me. This is something ‘Brake’ wasn’t able to do.

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