Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Morgan: Rich, come on, you can't do this. We're partners. You were best man at my wedding. You are godfather to my daughter.
Berzinski: That has nothin' to do with this. This is Chicago. And like your old man used to say, the only things on the square in this town are roller derby and wrestling.- Dean Cain, Richard Yearwood
Stars: Dean Cain, Erika Eleniak, Roman Podhora, Eric Roberts
Other Stars: Richard Yearwood, Bernard Browne, Santino Buda, Aleks Paunovic, Angelo Tsarouchas
Director: Charles Robert Carner
MPAA Rating: R for (violence)
Run Time: 01h:31m:00s
Release Date: 2003-06-17
DVD ReviewI've always considered made-for-television movies to be a disposable genre, the video counterpart to paperback beach novels—guilty escapism, designed to be enjoyed in the moment, then forgotten. Of course, HBO, Showtime, and (more rarely) the mainstream networks have produced plenty of stellar TV dramas and musicals, but the movies mounted by the second tier of cable channels—USA, Lifetime, Turner, and others—seem to harken back to the Movie-of-the-Week days of yore, featuring assembly line production values, cookie-cutter scripts and second-rate actors. A rushed feel permeates these films, as if the director works with a stopwatch, barely allowing the actors to finish spitting out their lines before striking the set and moving on to the next set-up.
Breakaway (originally broadcast as Christmas Rush) is a classic example of this low-rent style of television moviemaking. While entertaining and mildly involving, it's basically a late-night time-waster—something to watch when infomercials rule the airwaves.
It's Christmas Eve in Chicago and suspended cop Cornelius Morgan (a scruffy Dean Cain) heads to the swanky Chicago Place mall to make peace with his wife Cat (Baywatch babe Erika Eleniak), who works in a jewelry store. Little do they know that ex-con and professional thief Jimmy Scalzetti (Eric Roberts) plans to rob the mall at closing time and abscond with the ten million dollar take, using part of it to pay for a bone marrow transplant for his leukemia-stricken son. Helping Scalzetti is the usual motley crew of dopey henchmen, whom Scalzetti at one point humorously characterizes as "not the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree."
Of course, suspension notwithstanding, once Morgan stumbles upon the heist, he jumps in to try to thwart it, borrowing tricks from both Bruce Willis in Die Hard and Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone to derail the bumbling Christmas crooks. Add a drunken department store Santa, a bratty child and her holier-than-thou mother, and Morgan's wife Cat as hostages and you've got your recipe for a pedestrian yuletide action yarn. And while Breakaway is taut and slick, its lack of originality keeps it at arms length. To be fair, the producers should have credited Die Hard as source material—the "borrowing" is that flagrant.
Cain puts a blue-collar spin on his Superman role, ably handling the superhero stunts and frequent fisticuffs. He makes Morgan as likeable as a shallow, cardboard character can be, always tossing off a wisecrack at the most desperate moments and warming our hearts with his Clark Kent earnestness. Roberts tries to engender some sympathy for his villain, but his one-note portrayal provokes little more than indifference from the audience. It's more intriguing to try and figure out how a promising young actor freefell from Star 80 and Runaway Train to third-rate fare like Breakaway, and Roberts often looks like he's pondering the issue on-screen as well.
On the plus side, the film does contain some impressive fight scenes and moves along at a brisk pace, rarely allowing one's attention to wander. It's too bad, however, that the frequent fadeouts—so necessary for commercial breaks on television—couldn't have been somehow excised to maintain tension, flow and lend Breakaway a more theatrical feel.
"There's an easy way and there's a hard way" is an oft-repeated line in the film. Sadly, writer/director Charles Robert Carner takes the easy way most of the time and Breakaway ends up as nothing more than what it surely was meant to be—a mediocre television movie.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+
|Aspect Ratio||1.78:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||no|
Image Transfer Review: Breakaway looks surprisingly crisp and clean on DVD, exhibiting very few blemishes. Much of the action transpires at night and in darkened corridors, parking garages and tunnels, yet details remain clear and black levels vary appropriately. The anamorphic widescreen presentation goes a long way toward raising the status of this TV movie, making it a smooth, pleasant viewing experience.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Here's where Columbia lets us down. For a film that shatters as much glass as Breakaway and contains enough explosions and gun battles to rival any summer blockbuster, a 5.1 track is an absolute must. And while the 2.0 track that Columbia includes here gets the job done with no major deficiencies (dialogue is clear and the sound field is warm and full), a multi-channel option would have greatly enhanced the film and complimented the higher quality video transfer. To my ears, optimal audio can dress up even the dowdiest movie and make it seem more substantial. In this case, DD5.1 would have packed on that extra bit of bulk that Breakaway craves.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Enough, Spider-Man, xXx
Packaging: AGI Media Packaging
Extras Review: A few trailers for other Columbia offerings and a multitude of foreign language subtitles comprise the supplements for this DVD.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsI still question the merit of releasing mundane made-for-television movies on DVD. I don't believe these films were meant to be viewed repeatedly and can't imagine anyone purchasing them for their collection. Still, for rent-aholics who have exhausted the hot hits aisle at the local Blockbuster, Breakaway provides enough firepower, chases and brawls to painlessly pass 90 minutes.
David Krauss 2003-06-23