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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Breakout (1975)

"It's a pity at my age, falling victim to a cliché. Because of a distant link between his chromosomes and mine, my grandson shall remain alive."
- Harris Wagner (John Huston)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: August 01, 2002

Stars: Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland
Other Stars: John Huston, Randy Quaid, Robert Duvall, Sheree North
Director: Tom Gries

MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 01h:36m:40s
Release Date: April 02, 2002
UPC: 043396048621
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+B+B+ D

DVD Review

TV director Tom Gries helmed only a handful of features, but his treatment gave at least two of his stars some of their best performances on film. Charleton Heston was handed a rich character in Will Penny (1968), and for action star Charles Bronson, Gries delivered back to back showcases with Breakout and Breakheart Pass, perhaps Bronson's most demanding roles as an actor.

Bronson plays pilot Nick Colton, a man leading a marginal existence in the dust bowl near the Mexican border. He is approached by the wife of an American businessman, Ann Wagner (Jill Ireland), to rescue her husband, who has been wrongly convicted of murder and is serving 28 years in a Mexican jail. Jay Wagner (Robert Duvall) is in peril, framed by his scheming grandfather (John Huston) who wants the boy out of the way, and as permanently as possible. Colton, lured by the promise of some quick, easy cash, enlists his partner, Hawk Hawkins (Randy Quaid), to aid in setting up an escape attempt, but their plans are being subverted by an insider hired to make sure Jay remains confined. After their first attempt ends in disaster (involving Quaid in drag posing as a prostitute, no less), the odds of Jay getting out alive are growing slimmer. As the ante grows, Colton must come up with another way to spring the man, unaware his every move is being dogged by the grandfather's accomplices. The final attempt is a do or die affair, putting everyone's life on the line.

What sets this film apart from the majority of Bronson's work is the breadth his character encompasses. He has an abundance of dialogue rather than his usual strong silent type; here he gets a cocky, determined, but not so confident role. While hardly all encompassing from an emotional standpoint, the actor is given breathing room, and displays more personality than in most of his work. Quaid gets some memorable scenes as the sidekick, adding to the comic overtones, while Ireland stands her ground as the desperate wife—and yes, at one time those bulbous shades were considered stylish. A young Duvall gets to wallow in his misfortune, resigned to living the rest of his days in his dirty Mexican cell, and is probably the most unlikable part in the picture. Huston does his usual job as the greedy grandfather.

The tone and pacing are definitely Seventies-style, with more of a TV feel than an adrenaline pumping, no holds barred blockbuster. Like most of Bronson's films, this isn't what you'd call high action, but it does feature a couple of noteworthy scenes, including the daring helicopter sequence, and a climactic runway chase. The cinematography effectively uses the scope framing, with wide, sweeping vistas, or tight, but wide angle shots adding to the feel of the scenes. Jerry Goldsmith provides a suitable, if not decidedly memorable score. The story isn't overly original, but does allow the characters to develop without completely forcing the issue. Though it doesn't feature the graphic violence found in some of his more popular pictures, and will be a little slow for modern audiences, this is a safe recommendation for Bronson fans.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Overall, the 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer here is very good. Colors are vibrant, contrast appropriate, and black levels solid. It is not without source defects, but they are relatively minor. There is some aliasing in places on fine horizontal lines, but edge enhancement is minimal, visible only in highly contrasted scenes. Film grain is present throughout, but fairly fine and for the most part natural looking, save for the opening sequence, which is worse for wear than the rest of the film.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is available in English and French mono. The English track is presented well; a little on the thin side, but average for the era. Dialogue is clear and except for a few instances, easy to discern. The French track is slightly more present and sibilant, but still quite good.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French, Portugese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras, other than a single chapter listing insert, are provided.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Charles Bronson gets a rare chance to stretch his abilities, demonstrating some comedic talent with an abundance of dialogue not found elsewhere. Breakout blends the drama of a serious jail break story with more humorous overtones, and a decent action sequence marks its climax. While somewhat middling in terms of comparisons with other films in the genre, Tom Gries gives his star some rope, resulting in a performance that is, at the very least, a departure from what we've come to expect from the actor.


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