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Brake (2012)
Movie Reviews

Brake (2012)

An infuriating exercise in cheating, not at all unlike the experience of being lifted several stories into the air, only to be dropped without warning.

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Brake is an infuriating exercise in cheating. We’re led to think the experience will be rewarding, simply because it’s packed with excitement and suspense. Alas, all that waits at the end of the line is disillusionment. That’s because each thrill, we eventually learn, stems from a profoundly implausible and hopelessly transparent premise. For the filmmakers to have built a plot on it is to assume that audiences possess not a shred of intelligence. Once we navigate through its pulse-pounding scenes, we’re punched straight in the gut with not one but two plot twists, which collectively adds up to the single worst ending since that of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. To call it an anticlimax would be a massive understatement. I cannot recall the last time a movie has made me feel so swindled.

Jeremy Reins (Stephen Dorff) awakens, confused and disoriented. He has no idea where he is or how he got there. It’s totally dark, apart from the red light of a digital clock, which seems to be on countdown mode. He can barely move or breathe. He quickly realizes he’s in a clear box made out of either glass or some industrial strength plastic. He now understands he has been kidnapped and imprisoned. Initially, he thinks it might have something to do with some unpaid gambling debts, which is the reason he went to New York in the first place. Is he still in New York? Various sounds and sensations make it clear that he’s in the trunk of a car, which is now on the move. The digital clock will count down to zero and reset itself many times throughout the course of the movie.

Reins realizes that there’s a CB radio in the box with him. He gets hold of a man who says his name his Henry Shaw (the voice of J.R. Bourne). It seems he too is being held captive in a clear box in the back of some automobile. Through their many exchanges, we learn that both Reins and Shaw are Secret Service agents. Someone pushes a postcard through a tube that connects from the back of the car to the box. It shows the White House. On the back is a handwritten message demanding to know the location of Roulette. That’s obviously a code word, although out of decency, I will not reveal what it refers to. I will say that Reins and Shaw are at the mercy of terrorists who are attempting to assassinate the President.

Various voices – some with Middle Eastern accents, others sounding American – eventually make their presence known on the CB radio. If Reins doesn’t tell them what they want to know, they will hurt his estranged wife. And wouldn’t you know, a speaker phone is taped to the top of the clear box. The terrorists patch Reins through to his wife, Molly (the voice of Chyler Leigh), who will eventually be kidnapped and put into her own clear box. The terrorists go one step further and release a swarm of bees into Reins’ box. Somehow, they know that Reins is allergic to bee stings. He’s so allergic, in fact, that he immediately goes into anaphylactic shock. He passes out, only to come to with a needle puncture on his side. His captors injected him with the necessary antidote. They obviously need him alive.

Exciting things happen, one right after the other. The car is pulled over by the cops. There’s a shootout, leaving a small hole in the clear box. Reins gets hold of a cell phone and calls 911, at which point he learns he’s in Maryland. He and the dispatcher (the voice of Kali Rocha) will go through the usual banter; much of hers involves technical lingo about cell phone triangulation. He will also call Molly and his associate Ben Reynolds (the voice of Tom Berenger), who’s frantic because it seems all of Washington, D.C. is in chaos following a series of explosions. Indeed, Reins is made to hear news reports through the tube. Henry becomes panicked because he fears for his wife and children. Molly becomes increasingly frightened and weepy as Reins professes his love for her. And all the while, the digital clock keeps on counting down. Can all this be stopped if Reins simply tells his captors what they want to know?

I’ll bet you think I’ve given too much of the plot away. You have no idea the lengths I’ve gone to keep the real secrets of this movie hidden. I’m obligated to not spoil the ending, and I will stay true to that. You should know, however, that it has nothing to do with keeping you in suspense over a great surprise. The truth is, if you knew the plot twists beforehand, you would avoid this movie like the plague. Both secrets are insultingly stupid. Whereas the first one merely irritated me, the second one made me livid. This is the reward I get sitting through ninety minutes of suspense? What a gyp. The experience of watching Brake is not at all unlike the experience of being lifted several stories into the air, only to be dropped without warning. And no, there isn’t a safety net there to catch you.

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03/23/2012

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NR

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IFC Films

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About the Author: Chris Pandolfi