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'Brake' Movie Review

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating


'Brake' movie poster.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: an American with US military/government ties is kidnapped by foreign extremists and held prisoner in a coffin-like box, leaving him precious little time to figure out where he is and to make a few cell phone calls to arrange for his rescue. If you said "That's the plot of Buried," you're half right, because it's also the plot of Brake, a thriller starring Stephen Dorff that is being released a year and a half after the Ryan Reynolds film hit theaters. What seems like a clear-cut ripoff, however, was reportedly developed independently of and concurrently with Buried, and given the effectiveness of the final product, there's room enough for both movies to occupy their own space within the thriller realm.

The Plot

Shortly after arriving in New York to tend to personal matters, special agent Jeremy Reins (Dorff) is knocked unconscious and awkens to find himself lying in darkness, the only thing visible being a bright red digital clock that's steadily counting down towards zero. He quickly realizes he's in the trunk of a car in a specially designed coffin-like glass box that allows his captors to periodically insert objects inside with him. The first is a postcard of the White House with a message on the back demanding he reveal classified information that could be used to assassinate the President of the United States.

Determined not to betray his country, Jeremy is subjected to physical and emotional torture by his faceless tormenters -- not the least of which is the threat to kill his wife Molly. What can he do from the confines of a trunk to save her life, much less his own, and what will happened when the countdown clock reaches zero? Jeremy has to call upon his years of training and his survival instincts to make sense of the terrorist plot and figure a way out of harm's way.

The End Result

Stephen Dorff in 'Brake'.

Stephen Dorff in 'Brake'.

With its man-trapped-in-a-box concept and single-setting, nearly real-time format, Brake will inevitably draw comparisons to Buried, but its fast-paced, popcorn movie approach helps it establish its own pulpy identity. While Buried focuses more on claustrophobic, Hitchcockian suspense, Brake is more action-oriented with less emphasis on drama, artistry and social commentary. That doesn't make it less entertaining, though; just lighter and more brisk, like an episode of 24 told without any of the action sequences shown on screen.

By hiding the events going on outside the trunk of the car -- allowing viewers only to hear (and to some extent, feel) the events going on outside the car -- Brake slyly manipulates our senses, heightening the air of mystery as we accompany Jeremy on his ride and try to "MacGyver" our way out of this mess. Like a good spy movie, the far-fetched but fun script layers twist upon twist, as backstabbing and suspicion run rampant, making our hero's vulnerable position all the more tenuous.

Even if his character lacks a certain humanity at times, Dorff makes the most of his performance, imbuing it with the sense of urgency the movie needs in order to be effective. Veteran TV director Gabe Torres, meanwhile, lacks the flair of Buried's Rodrigo Cortés, but his steady hand nonetheless pushes all the right buttons to maintain the tension and keep the momentum steamrolling forward.

The Skinny

  • Acting: B- (A tense, committed performance.)
  • Direction: C+ (Nondescript in style but effective in generating thrills.)
  • Script: B- (A bit far-fetched but fast-paced and thrilling.)
  • Gore/Effects: C (Little need for gore/special effects.)
  • Overall: B- (A twisty, enjoyable action thriller told from a unique viewpoint.)

Brake is directed by Gabe Torres and is not rated by the MPAA. Release date: March 23, 2012 (on demand February 17).

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