May 28, 2014

Review: Break Up (1998)

It's really hard to find a thriller movie that actually thrills isn't it? Break Up is another chapter in the long book of unthrilling thrillers and it's too bad. Years ago I saw Kiss of the Dragon with Jet Li and remember really liking Bridget Fonda for some reason. She played this vulnerable prostitute that I couldn't help but feel bad for and she plays a victim in this movie as well.

Break Up isn't too different from J.Lo's Enough, but it isn't quite as laughably hamfisted in its anti-domestic abuse message. The big problem is that it fails in getting across any sort of tension across the screen and it has an unhealthy habit of using too many flashbacks. There are maybe a few moments that shock, but those moments wear off pretty quick.


Genre: thriller
Directed by: Paul Marcus
Produced by: Jonas Goodman, Harvey Kahn, Elie Samaha, etc.
Written by: Anne Amanda Opotowsky
Music by: Laura Karpman
Running time: 100 minutes
Production company: Front Street Pictures, Millennium Films
Distributed by: Ascot Video, Breakstreet Productions, KSS, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Bridget Fonda, Kiefer Sutherland, Hart Bochner, Steven Weber, Penelope Ann Miller, Tippi Hedren, Leslie Stefanson, Mike Hagerty, Tom Harrison, Charles Noland, Muse Watson



Break Up follows Jimmy Dade (Bridget Fonda) and her goal to get away from her abusive husband (Hart Bochner). Jimmy isn't a typo, I swear. Apparently her father wanted a boy originally. How she gets saddled with a name like James is beyond me, I mean why didn't her mother step in? Maybe she was abused too? Who knows, but I guess that wouldn't be too much of a stretch. Officer John Box tries to help Jimmy out, but things get complicated of course. Her secret bank account is emptied and she has to find a way to stop her husband Frankie before he can do more damage.


The way the movie is set up has to be explained with flashbacks. Leaving an audience with questions is fine and dandy, but is it really necessary to do that regarding Jimmy's deafness? She's been deaf for a year apparently as a result of one of Frankie's beatings. It's an awkward beginning and it doesn't heighten any feelings of sympathy for Jimmy either. If the audience were told in a straightforward way, we would have felt bad just the same. It all feels like an unnecessary detour in the story. 

The story itself just feels extremely flat. This is a thriller and the story should be as uneven as a mountain with some peaks larger than others. What Break Up has is probably less than a couple of speed bumps. The score doesn't try to overcompensate too much though which is nice and I actually kind of liked it. There are a few moments where it sounds uninspired and low budget but other times it adds a certain seedy quality that's fitting.

Bridget Fonda does pretty well as Jimmy Dade, but nothing earth shattering. She's forced to play a bit of a dumb character who seemingly sets herself up for capture again and again but that's what the script calls for. It's not Fonda's fault and she does well enough as a recently deaf woman.

Kiefer Sutherland on the other hand looks like he's sleep walking. It doesn't look like he wants to be there at all and he just adds to the non-thrillerness of Break Up. Bridget Fonda's character calls for some desperation on her part but Kiefer just seems to be asleep at the wheel. In the moments where there should be some kind of heartbeat from him there's just nothing.

The script is weak with things like (Spoilers) an incredibly dumb escape from a police station to Jimmy conveniently being able to get her hands on a car. Jimmy even returns to the same police station without getting spotted! (End spoilers) There's a slight build up near the end but the climax is more confusing than anything else. (Spoilers) Can anyone tell me why you wouldn't shoot the abusive husband who's just suddenly appeared in your motel room uninvited? Jimmy instead gives him the gun (!!!) and puts on an act of having missed him. Then she shoots him. Why the wait at all? (End Spoilers) This is Hollywood though and I guess endings can't be too logical if they sacrifice thrill. The solution here would be completely re-toggling the end into something that makes more sense.

 Break Up is perfect for a late night watch when you're at a hotel and you have a business meeting the next morning. It's easy and it'll put you to sleep instead of putting you at the edge of your seat. You need that rest after all. Bridget Fonda makes a valiant effort but it doesn't cover up for the sleeper that is Break Up.



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