It’s not every day you get excited about a Ray Liotta movie. Goodfellas and Cop Land were a long time ago, and not since Smokin’ Aces seven years back had he appeared in anything interesting until The Place Beyond The Pines. Step forward Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games, to try and save the day. Co-written with director Doug Lodato (he’s directed one other film, Australian comedy Best Shots way back in 1990), Collins adds a bit of oomph to a movie better known as Ticket Out.
Forced to flee with her two young children, recently divorced mother Jocelyn (Alexandra Breckenridge) must keep her family safe from her dangerous ex-husband but also avoid the law. With the police chasing her on charges of kidnapping, Jocelyn’s only hope is an underground network whose purpose is to aid people in her situation. Putting her trust in Jim (Liotta) and his mysterious contacts may be her only hope of freeing her family and putting a dark chapter of their lives behind them…
Alexandra Breckenridge came to our attention playing the young, sexy and extremely naughty maid Moira in the original American Horror Story (2011). Ever since she teased Dylan McDermott’s character Ben by wearing that little black number we have sworn to keep a close eye on her career, so it’s pleasing to see that she has been cast as the lead in Breakout. It’s a shame she’s limited to longing glances at Liotta’s Jim as he befriends her son, but she does have extremely poor taste in men, including big bad Billy Burke’s character Dennis, her hectoring husband.
Oddly, Burke and Liotta would suit each other’s roles perfectly, as both are miscast. Burke plays the less than imposing bully well, even if at times his darker side seems slightly contrived, whilst Liotta attempts the mysterious stranger with a bigger heart than he lets on just as adequately, but he’s hardly easy on the eye anymore, so a burgeoning romance between Breckenridge and Burke would be more convincing and slightly less vomit inducing than the one we are forced to endure. Luckily, the fireworks to this fling are never lit, which sums up most of the script’s dramas as they fade without a fight.
To be fair the actors all achieve what is required of them, but they're never allowed to show just what they can do. Breckenridge deserves a meatier role than the one she is given here, especially as she looks pretty swell with a gun in her hand. Sadly, there’s little conflict, despite the threat of a husband prepared to do anything to get his children back, proven when he prefers to hire a private detective and his dog to hunt down the runaways. The police are never far behind either. They are, however, always behind (a staple of crime thrillers these days). A twist half way through proceedings adds potential, but opportunities are wasted until a frantic final ten minutes which make the whole journey almost worthwhile.
Colin Ford, who plays DJ, the young boy at the heart of this story, is a welcome surprise, although for fans of Supernatural (he played Sam Winchester) his precious and pretty performance may not be. Born in Nashville, Tennessee, he won his first modelling job at the age of four, broke into feature films at the age of five (his family bought a zoo in Cameron Crowe’s movie from 2011), and will be appearing in the highly anticipated television series Under The Dome, which adapts Stephen King’s novel of the same name. Ford is one to keep an eye on, so it’s fortunate that this mediocre thriller didn’t hinder his progress.
One of Breakout’s biggest problems is that it sets itself up as a cliff-hanger but fails to deliver much to keep us on the edge of our sofas. The action and thrills take a backseat to the barely noteworthy histrionics and the splendour of the baron locations, so although there’s a decent dust up and the already mentioned flight of fancy in the final act, brief flashes of tension scattered across the sparse script just aren’t enough. You can’t really call a film Breakout when our jaded leads prefer to tip-toe and sneak about instead.
It’s not all bad though. In fact, the whole package is somehow watchable, benefiting from a good pace, a tasty set-up sadly lost in the closing stages, and a slight spark at the film’s heart which will keep you rooting for Jocelyn and her son, whilst putting up with the annoying daughter (who only seems to be there to do something silly). Ray, soft in the middle and slightly too old to be chasing planes, deserves some empathy, even if he is clearly thankful this isn’t the killer ride Turbulence was. That said, a bit of brainless action would not have gone amiss.
We could give Suzanne Collins the benefit of the doubt and say she was responsible for penning the few good points in Breakout - two commendable action scenes and a half decent premise - but we haven't a clue if she did. Instead, a promising cast has been short-changed, and the author of The Hunger Games has left us malnourished; craving a little bit more action and a few more thrills to go with our slice of family feuding. Lodato could be waiting another 23 years for his next outing. DW