Sony // 2013 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // September 27th, 2013
No prison can hold a father's fury.
The woods are a scary place for two big reasons. The first is that, like most remote locations, it's scary because it's unknown. Who knows what could be lurking in the dark recesses of the tress? The second is that much of what we do know about the woods leads us to be scared of its inhabitants. Wolves, bears, snakes, poisonous plants, and the run-of-the-mill dangers of walking through tangled undergrowth. The second set of fears is much more rational, while the first seems to lead us to tell lots of stories that keep seem designed to keep people out of the woods. Now that we no longer believe that the Big Bad Wolf will eat Grandma, we need new stories about the woods. Breakout tells us that we should keep out of the woods in case we witness a murder. The resulting movie is about that level of silly.
Jack (Brendan Fraser, Monkeybone) is an environmental activist jailed for killing a man during a protest. When his kids are in the woods with their mother, they witness a murder. The murderers then pursue the family through the woods. When Jack learns of this, he breaks out of prison to protect his family.
Breakout is Witness in the woods with less barn-raising. Not really. That might be an okay movie. Instead, Breakout is an unnecessarily complicated attempt at a backwoods thriller. Even the synopsis shows just how unnecessarily complicated the plot is. The idea of a kid witnessing a murder in the woods and then being hunted down is a solid one. Putting his dad in jail so he has to break out before coming to the son's rescue is just silly, straining whatever credibility the film might hope to hold onto.
Ultimately, the worst part about Breakout is the sense of missed opportunity. There's a feeling that with a cast this size and direction that isn't incompetent, the end result should be better than what we see with Breakout. Maybe my expectations were too high, but a backwoods chase film with Ethan Suplee and Brendan Fraser feels like it could be the stuff of cult-action magic. Instead, it never rises above serious mediocrity.
The best that can be said about the rest of the film aside from its plot is that at least it's not terrible. The cast is full of people you'll likely recognize. We've got Brendan Fraser, Ethan Suplee, and Dominic Purcell as the obvious standouts. They give performances that aren't bad, especially given the quality of the material they had to work with. They stay straight-faced despite the inherently ridiculous.
The direction is similarly competent. Despite the silly premise, individual scenes are well put together. Once the chase begins, the film does a fine job of keeping tension pretty high. As a straight-to-DVD effort, it's largely fine. Those used to low-budget action flicks will find little to complain about here, even if nothing stands out as great.
The DVD also falls into the unremarkable camp. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer looks fine. Detail is solid throughout, and colors are well-saturated. The greens and browns of the forest have a rich, earthy quality to them. Black levels are consistent and deep enough, and there are no compression or authoring problems worth noting. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is similarly pretty good. Dialogue is clean and clear in the front, and the surrounds get some use to establish the forest. They also come alive during various chase sequences.
Despite the level of talent involved in the production, there are no extras specific to the feature included on this disc. That is, unless you count the three extra DD 5.1 tracks (in Thai, Portuguese, and Spanish). Instead, we get a set of trailers for other releases. It would have been great to get at least an interview with the cast; this may not be anyone's best work, but it's not the kind of thing that either Ethan Suplee or Brendan Fraser has really done before.
Breakout is the kind of direct-to-video feature that sounds good at 2AM, where the familiar face of Brendan Frasier will, like a siren song, lure the unsuspecting viewer into a mediocre action film. It's never bad enough that changing the channel is necessary, but it's not good enough to make it memorable enough to recommend to friends the next day. This okay DVD is worth a rental to superfans of the actors involved. Everyone should probably just watch something else.
Guilty of mediocrity.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Rated R