×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Brake

A peculiar variation on the paranoid thriller and a virtual one-man show for Stephen Dorff.

With:
Jeremy Reins - Stephen Dorff
Molly Reins - Chyler Leigh
Henry Shaw - JR Bourne
Ben Reynolds - Tom Berenger

A peculiar variation on the paranoid thriller and a virtual one-man show for Stephen Dorff, “Brake” deposits the viewer with a kidnapped man in the back of a car and lets the fur fly. Somewhat comparable to the underrated Ryan Reynolds-in-a-coffin thriller “Buried,” director Gabe Torres and writer Timothy Mannion contrive enough events and intrusions to avoid claustrophobic stasis, with Dorff solo onscreen for 99% of the running time. IFC will gain a trunkload of cash, mostly from VOD and ancillary.

Trouble has already begun for Secret Service agent Jeremy Reins (Dorff) in the opening frames, when he awakens to find himself in a transparent coffin, permitting a view of an LED clock ticking down from four minutes to zero. Immediately, this doesn’t look good, and Jeremy concludes he’s been kidnapped by an Atlantic City bookie to whom he owes a considerable gambling debt.

He’s soon disabused of this notion when the voice of a man named Henry (JR Bourne) emanates from a police radio receiver within Jeremy’s reach. Henry, it seems, is trapped under the same conditions as Jeremy, even looking at the same kind of ticking digital clock. As the timepiece ticks down from four minutes, only to reset itself and repeat the process again and again, conditions alter inside the coffin: Bright lights sometimes come on, or the sound of a car ignition is heard, making Jeremy realize he’s stuck in a car trunk.

A postcard with a picture of the White House and a portentous note on the back is passed to Jeremy through a tube connecting the trunk to the front of the car, where a driver and passenger vocally make demands of their captive. They also let him reach estranged wife Molly (Chyler Leigh), whom Jeremy hasn’t seen in three months; his urgent message to her is to reach fellow agent Ben (Tom Berenger) to secure the president of the United States.

By now, it’s apparent that what’s being served up is a terrorism thriller, albeit one that withholds any conventional visual information. As tension amps up and torture is introduced, including the release of a swarm of bees into the coffin, it’s also clear Jeremy won’t meet the terrorists’ demands, portending an almost certain grim denouement.

Lenser James Mathers’ digital cameras (using several setups for maximum coverage and variations of angle) simulates a vehicle in motion by rocking and rolling with production designer John Mott’s snug set, positioned on a set of gimbals. Because these angles remain almost purely within the trunk, there’s a heightened awareness of the craft involved, a factor that will either take auds out of the pic or add to the pleasures of watching a feat of physical filmmaking.

Mannion’s script goes a bit too far in terms of twists, capping the third-act suspense with a plot U-turn, and then another, that leaves audiences feeling played. Worse, the final development loses credibility in retrospect, reducing the film to the level of an exercise in paranoia, effects and one actor’s ability to hold attention for nearly 90 minutes.

“Brake” may not be the kind of film that Dorff’s thesp character in Sofia Coppola’s “Somewhere” is pining for, but the actor fully commits to the arduous demands of the part. The rise and fall in Jeremy’s moods and emotions never feel as manipulated as the plot itself, so that a good deal of the pic’s impact derives less from auto mechanics than from Dorff. His supporting cast (generally offscreen and on the soundtrack) gives him something to play off, especially the always solid Pruitt Taylor Vince in double roles as a terrorist and a trucker.

Torres oversees an interesting sensory experience that rises in intensity, and he works effectively with editor Sam Restivo to cut among Mathers’ many camera positions for visual variation. Like “Buried,” “Brake” may become a technical object lesson in how to film in extremely tight spaces.

Brake

Production: An IFC Films release of a Walking West Entertainment production in association with La Costa Prods. Produced by James Walker, Nathan West, Gabe Torres. Executive producers, Stephen Dorff, Ryan Ross, Walter Zuck. Co-producers, Chyler Leigh, Andrew Hilton. Co-executive producer, Robert G. Davis. Directed by Gabe Torres. Screenplay, Timothy Mannion.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), James Mathers; editor, Sam Restivo; music, Brian Tyler; production designer, John Mott; art director, Sofia Jimenez; costume designer, Marcy Froehlich; sound (stereo), Michael "Kriky" Krikorian; sound designer, Richard Beggs; supervising sound editor, Richard Beggs; re-recording mixer, Beggs; visual effects supervisor, Jeremy West; visual effects, Frozen Pond Studios; stunt coordinator, Marcus Young; second unit camera, Terry Pratt. Reviewed on DVD, San Jose, Calif., March 18, 2012. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 91 MIN.

With: Jeremy Reins - Stephen Dorff
Molly Reins - Chyler Leigh
Henry Shaw - JR Bourne
Ben Reynolds - Tom BerengerWith: Kali Rocha, King Orba, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Sammy Sheik, Kent Shocknek.

More Film

  • Clark Gable III

    Clark Gable's Grandson, Who Hosted 'Cheaters,' Found Dead at 30

    Clark Gable’s grandson, Clark Gable III, died on Friday morning at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Variety confirmed with the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office. He was 30. “It’s is with an extremely heavy heart we say goodbye to my beautiful son Clark,” his mother wrote on Instagram. “He passed this morning. I will always [...]

  • You Were Never Really Here If

    Film Independent's Spirit Awards Fly the Flag for Indie Film

    As the 2018 awards season marches slowly into its final days, only a handful of honors remain undistributed after some of the most volatile and contentious campaigns in years. Front-runners have come and gone in one major category after the next, as each guild and critics group announced different winners than its predecessors, demolishing expectations [...]

  • A Quiet Place

    John Krasinski Returning to Direct 'A Quiet Place' Sequel

    John Krasinski is returning to direct the untitled sequel to Paramount’s horror hit “A Quiet Place.” Krasinski revealed the news Friday via an Instagram post that said “…time to go back. #PartII 5-15-20”; the post showed the red lights that became synonymous with the alien threats in the first movie. “A Quiet Place” starred Krasinski, Emily [...]

  • Red Carpet Guide to the Bowtie

    Five Tips to a Perfect Bow Tie on Oscar Night

    Warren Alfie Baker is always on the hunt for just the right bow tie. He’s a Hollywood stylist who helps keep such clients as Lucas Hedges, Norman Reedus and Harry Shum Jr. looking sharp. “It seems like the easiest thing to sort out, but so many mistakes can be made,” Baker tells Variety. And the [...]

  • Francois Ozon's 'The Grace Of God'

    Francois Ozon's 'By The Grace Of God' Delivers Strong B.O. Opening in France

    Rolling off its triumph at the Berlin Film Festival where it won the Silver Bear, François Ozon’s Catholic church sexual abuse drama By “The Grace Of God” had a strong theatrical bow in France where it sold nearly 50,000 tickets on 290 screens on Feb. 20, its first day out One of the best opening [...]

  • David Oyelowo Peter Rabbit 2

    David Oyelowo Joins the Cast of Sony's 'Peter Rabbit' Sequel (EXCLUSIVE)

    Golden Globe nominee David Oyelowo is set to join the cast of Sony Pictures’ “Peter Rabbit 2,” the live-action hybrid sequel to the 2018 family hit, sources tell Variety. He joins Rose Byrne and Domhnall Gleeson, who are returning from the first film, as is James Corden in the voice of the mischievous Peter Rabbit. [...]

  • Luke Wilson Zombieland 2

    Luke Wilson Joins 'Zombieland' Sequel (EXCLUSIVE)

    Luke Wilson is set to join the ensemble of the upcoming “Zombieland” sequel, sources tell Variety. Wilson will star alongside Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin in “Zombieland 2.” As previously reported, Zoey Deutch, Thomas Middleditch, and Rosario Dawson are also boarding the cast. In the sequel, the zombie slayers must face [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content