Anyone who sees Stephen Dorff in Brake will have difficultly avoiding comparisons to Colin Farrell in Phone Booth, Ryan Reynolds in Buried, and Adrien Brody in Wrecked. The Farrell and Brody films are not superior films, but Reynolds’ portrayal of an American civilian truck driver in Iraq who is buried underground and given certain tools is a superior film. What it comes down to with Brake is the film’s believability/credibility quotient; I would put that somewhere near 2.5/10 which is about where the ultimate review lands as well. A project like this relies heavily upon whether we believe what we are watching. Not once did I believe or feel anything toward Dorff’s character or his situation.
Dorff’s character – Jeremy Reins – begins in a glass box in the trunk of a car. We find out that he’s a Secret Service agent who knows something about in which secret bunker the President of the United States is located due to terrorist attacks on Washington D.C. (a crisis which Reins figures out in his own way). The idea of what he is being used for and the way in which he is being used for this purpose is rather preposterous. It is just illogical from beginning to end.
There is a timer he can see. When the timer gets to 00:00 something happens to Reins. This timepiece is too precious for words. It sets the audience up for the next experience Reins will go through. Without telling the reader what any of these experiences are, one can guess from the circumstance(s) that they are not pleasant. He finds himself with a CB radio which he uses to talk to a U.S. State Department member claiming to be in the same position as Reins – unsurprisingly, Reins is quite skeptical of this man’s role as another similar victim. In fact, claustrophobia and paranoia seem to be the film’s watchwords. However, that is not enough on which to build a successful film.
The script was written by 19-year-old first-time screenwriter Timothy Mannion and it shows that Mannion is no screenwriting savant. Director Gabe Torres is a television veteran (and not great television at that) and seems to be out of his element when it comes to this feature film. The script is full of holes and neither Torres’ direction can save it, nor is Dorff simply strong enough to fill those holes through the sheer power of acting. Everyone else, for the most part, is heard off-screen: his wife, his Secret Service friend, the 911 operator, and others. In fact, they are much more believable than Dorff who is on screen the entire time.
The film ends with two back-to-back twists; that is, two surprise endings as apparently one is simply not enough. In fact, the first would have made an interesting twist in-and-of itself and if the film had ended there I might have had greater respect for what Reins had been through. Unfortunately, the second twist is too easily spotted especially given the fact that it occurs just minutes after the first surprise “ending.” Unfortunately, they cannot save this film. If you are a fan of twists and turns in a film, then see Brake just for those two surprises at the end. If they had come at the end of a believable, interesting film then I think myself and other reviewers would be giving higher praise to the film.