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2012 | 92 min | R | 1.78:1



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Theatrical release date

 23 March, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

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Screenshots from Brake Blu-ray

Brake Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 21, 2012

“Brake” has the unfortunate position of following 2010’s “Buried,” with both films sharing the premise of a man trapped in a box for 90 minutes of screen time. With “Buried,” there was Ryan Reynolds and the dire situation of being locked inside of a coffin in middle of nowhere. For “Brake,” there’s Stephen Dorff and a clear plastic box within a moving automobile. It’s a bit of a downgrade in imagination and thespian reach, but it doesn’t entirely rub away the suspense of this effort. Although the two features share uncomfortable similarities, “Brake” works as a budget suspense experience, reaching enough boiling points to entertain, but not enough to block out the ridiculous ending.

Waking up within a clear plastic casket, Secret Service Agent Jeremy Reins (Stephen Dorff) has found himself trapped inside the trunk of a speeding car. Finding only a CB radio within his reach, Jeremy calls out to a second kidnap victim stashed inside another vehicle, using his training to collect information to help him understand the frantic situation. Above him is a countdown clock that repeatedly resets, while eventual access to a cell phone reveals his wife Molly (Chyler Leigh) is also in grave danger. Coming to the understanding that he’s part of a terrorist attack on the president, Jeremy clings to his national security oath, refusing to divulge information to the villains while he searches for any chance of escape.

Working against familiarity and limited budgetary resources, director Gabe Torres and screenwriter Timothy Mannion do a commendable job bringing the small-scale tension of “Brake” to life. Holding to Jeremy’s POV, the feature locks the viewer inside the trunk with the harried protagonist, providing a claustrophobic visual experience that holds intently on the victim’s increasingly frenzied reactions to outside demands from the faceless terrorist organization. It’s a film built on unrelenting pressure, but portioned successfully through a series of communication devices that fall into Jeremy’s lap, allowing the material to explore the outside world and increase the character’s paranoia. He talks with Molly, his fellow kidnap target, a truck driver, and a 911 operator, feverishly working to pinpoint his location and grasp the full extent of his predicament. Left with only a series of threats, a cryptic postcard of the White House, and his own training, Jeremy rabidly assembles the pieces while futilely pounding away at his plastic prison.

Executive produced and starring Dorff, “Brake” provides something different for the actor to do. Habitually drawn to roles that display his abs or his anger, Dorff tucks away some of his ego to play this rat in a cage. While the performance primarily consists of screaming and sweaty monologuing, Dorff’s commitment to the intensity of the moment is exhausting to watch, requiring a full-body effort the actor is more than happy to offer. The emotional shades of Jeremy’s meltdown aren’t quite as vividly articulated as his interrogation techniques, but his basic drive is cared for, understanding the agent’s renewed devotion to his estranged wife and his dedication to national security. Dorff digs into the work and that energy carries “Brake” an impressive distance, turning a straightforward professional assignment of fear into a nail-biting situation of life and death.

Without a vigorous stylistic approach, “Brake” doesn’t exactly leap off the screen, playing as more of a minimally feral experience to sustain the madness of Jeremy’s cramped survival challenge. To add some firepower to a simplistic picture, the conclusion arranges two twists to keep viewers guessing. “Buried” went for the gut-punch climax, daringly grim and sickening. The resolution for “Brake” is more conventional and absurd, releasing the film’s choke hold to mess around with mind games that clarify what was once so pleasingly vague. The finale isn’t satisfying, rudely halting the suspense of the movie to manufacture an ending that doesn’t feel as manic or inventive as the material that preceded it. “Brake” limps to the end credits, requiring the viewer to carefully embrace the compelling build-up of the feature and ignore its disappointing resolution.

Starring: Stephen Dorff, Chyler Leigh, JR Bourne, Tom Berenger, Kali Rocha, Pruitt Taylor Vince
Director: Gabe Torres

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