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CHARLES BRONSON & ROBERT DUVALL BAND APART FOR 'BREAKOUT'

Charles Bronson in BREAKOUT Year: 1975 Rates: ***1/2

The violent prologue of the 1975 Tom Gries jailbreak flick is so Sam Peckinpah you could call it BRING ME THE HEAD OF ROBERT DUVALL, and the Bloody Sam similarities include echoed gunshots under the hot Mexico sun; a white shirt soaked with gory, bright red blood; a slow-motion body falling to the ground as the opening credits appear across  paused-images as Jerry Goldsmith's score opens with soft, skeletal vibes into a Spanish groove... 

And even beyond all that, BREAKOUT is a modern Spaghetti Western (released the same year as Gries/Bronson's actual Western BREAKHEART PASS) wherein action hero Charles Bronson is similar to his colorful MR. MAJESTYK character, only even more playfully cocky and wisecracking... 

Robert Duvall and Jill Ireland in BREAKOUT

A small-plane pilot who doesn't just narrow his eyes to get what he's after — more of a human being than a big screen teflon legend, giving this otherwise sparse and gritty, rural crime-based melodrama more than a dash of genuine personality throughout...

Although the flip-side can be tough and downright frustrating, that is, having one of the all-time great actors, Robert Duvall, incapable of doing anything except suffer inside a Mexican prison cell, only to fail at several escape attempts including getting buried alive or just randomly beaten/bullied by guards...

Charles Bronson in BREAKOUT

Yet the glass is half full with the adventurous Bronson in the air while the grounded Duvall waits/hopes on the ground; the latter whose wife, played by Jill Ireland, is stuck in-between these polar opposites...

One's rich man (grandson of business tycoon John Huston) facing a thirty-year sentence, and the other a working class maverick living from paycheck to paycheck — finally happening upon this much needed payday...

Jill Ireland in BREAKOUT

Meanwhile, Jill Ireland is given an important middleground role while Duvall displays his usual blunt intensity, having conversation-turned-arguments with his wife in the hellish, caveman-like cell... 

Herein she faces an entirely brand new beast than she, or we, are used to while Bronson's character seems like a loner, like most of his roles, but here he's got an extremely reluctant partner in Randy Quaid along with 11th hour ace helicopter flier Alan Vint... the latter being technically the most important of all...

Charles Bronson in BREAKOUT

But in a movie centering on a daring if nearly-impossible rescue, Bronson's the only character to root for yet he's anything but conventionally charming, and, what happens in old movies where the gruff pilot has to warm up to the rich lady, and vice versa, is hinted at without being hackneyed, cliché...

Continuing to think up new plans to rescue his client's husband... while some plans are edgier than others, and the finale goes on a too long during the planning stages (including the potential use of Sheree North and jealous husband Roy Jensen)... then rushed during the climax... BREAKOUT provides a glimpse of what Charles Bronson used to be: a colorful, somewhat even talkative character actor, only now in the urgent lead.

Charles Bronson with Alan Vint and Randy Quaid in BREAKOUT

Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland in BREAKOUT
Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland in BREAKOUT
Robert Duvall and Jill Ireland in BREAKOUT
Robert Duvall  in BREAKOUT
Desk-set villain John Huston  in BREAKOUT
Jill Ireland in BREAKOUT
Robert Duvall  in BREAKOUT
Robert Duvall  in BREAKOUT with Jill Ireland
Charles Bronson in BREAKOUT with Sheree North

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