- Movie Rating -

Breaking (2022)

| August 29, 2022

Watching Abi Darmas Corbin’s bank heist thriller Breaking, it is hard for your brain not to travel back nearly half a century to Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon.  Both films are about otherwise descent men pushed to brink, who recklessly hold up a bank in the middle of the afternoon busy hours and find themselves in over their heads with the usual obstacles – nervous hostages, ineffective negotiators, hungry TV journalists, and a squad of over-caffeinated law enforcement agents with itchy trigger fingers.

Movies are a window on the times in which they are made, and movies like this seems to land with a little more potency when they are released at a moment when American civilization is in a state of crisis.  Lumet’s film was released in 1975 – the post-Vietnam era.  Corben’s film comes to us post-COVID, post-Iraq War, at a moment when we feel our institutions are failing us.  Had the film come out five years ago, I don’t think that it would have worked nearly as well.  Breaking doesn’t land quite as hard as Dog Day Afternoon, it runs too long and it makes the same point over and over, but when it works, we are very involved.

Based on a true story that took place in 2017, the film stars John Boyega in a brilliant performance as Brian Brown-Easley, a former Marine suffering from crippling PTSD who sticks up a Wells Fargo bank by passing a note to the clerk in which he claims to have a bomb in his backpack.  His motivation is largely to get the attention of the VA who has been indifferent to his needs and to get back the small amount of money ($892) that is owed to him.  Give him the money and nobody gets hurt – it’s that simple.

Two things make the film work.  First is Boyega’s performance as a twitchy, nervous man whose demands are reasonable but whose plan never seems to have been thought out.  He’s in over his head and he knows it, especially as the storm clouds gather outside in the form of law enforcement, negotiators, VA techs, and the very shaky staff who are holed up with him inside the confines of the bank.  We are in sympathy with him.  We understand his predicament.  And flashbacks show his difficulties dealing with the VA.

Second is Corbin’s ability to arrange the increasing number of supporting players, none of whom wants a catastrophe and all of whom want to cut the fuse before the problem turns tragic.  Everybody from the bank manager (Nicole Beharie), to a TV reporter (Connie Britton), to the chief negotiator (Michael K. Williams), there are no stock characters, not loud-mouth to make the situation worse.  The screenplay keeps the drama with Brian without making the situation worse.  Where Dog Day Afternoon was about building tension, this one is about focusing on the central problem and that’s a smart decision

That approach is what I liked about Breaking.  What didn’t work as well is that, again, the film states and overstates its goals again and again.  The films runs 103 minutes but I really think this story could have been about 20 minutes shorter.  But within the film’s best moments, this is a very sure-footed drama.

[in theaters and available to rent on Vudu}

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2022) View IMDB Filed in: Drama