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Breakheart Pass Blu-ray Re-release Review

Breakheart Pass is 1975 murder mystery western directed by Tom Gries and starring Charles Bronson, based on the Alistair MacLean novel of the same name. Despite a strong cast and an intriguing premise, it never really takes off. John Deakin (Bronson) is wanted fugitive who gets caught in a small town and put on an express train as a prisoner-in-transit. The train is headed on a secret mission to a frontier outpost and is full of Army men - as well as a handful of civilians. The journey quickly takes a dark turn when passengers start dying or disappearing one by one, followed by mysterious acts of sabotage and subterfuge. It sounds like a compelling enough whodunnit in theory, but Breakheart Pass fails to make its central mystery really worth caring about. The characters aren't particularly interesting, so when the inevitable secrets and ulterior motives start to get revealed, it's hard to elicit any kind of response other than a half-hearted shrug. It's difficult to say exactly why it doesn't work since it seemingly has all the right ingredients - a confined setting, lots of possible suspects, plenty of twists and turns. Despite all of that, it almost never feels like there's really anything worthwhile at stake. I've seen another MacLean adaptation, Where Eagles Dare (Brian G. Hutton, 1968) which is far more compelling as an action movie and consistently keeps throwing interesting plot and character curveballs at you. MacLean himself wrote the scripts for both movies, so he was properly having an off day with Breakheart Pass. What does keep it from being a complete snooze-fest is a decent cast and a handful of unremarkable, but still lively action sequences, including a fight on top of the moving train. It's also well shot and made - the stunt work, landscape shots and a few truly glorious train moments deserve particular credit. Of the supporting cast, Richard Crenna (The Rambo series) makes the strongest impression as Governor Fairchild. Actress Jill Ireland, Bronson's real-life wife, gets to play a fairly underwritten female character who's seemingly there solely so that the movie isn't a complete sausage fest. Bronson never quite settles into his role. He does well with the action hero stuff, but he is far less convincing as a mild-mannered doctor/prisoner. It's an awkwardly restrained performance that only picks up near the end when he gets to throw a few punches, shoot some guns and blow stuff up. Breakheart Pass feels like the kind of movie that you find late at night while browsing TV channels or streaming services. It's just engaging enough to fill up the time, but once it's done, you'll struggle to remember much of anything that happened in it. Eureka Entertainment's dual format home release is disappointingly light on special features and options, offering only an interview with author and critic Kim Newman and Breakheart Pass' original theatrical trailer. Your only two other options are 'Play Film' and 'Play Film with English SDH (subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing). Admittedly, that does save you the trouble of a separate Set Up screen, but it also makes the main menu look laughably barren. The Newman interview is a good 24-25 minutes long, but still, some extra features and additional subtitle options would have been appreciated. If you're a diehard Bronson fan, you might get a kick out of it. Anyone else might be hard-pressed to find much of a reason to care. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC7RPYoV5Xk&feature=youtu.be[/embed]
  • A handful of lively action sequences
  • Impressive stunt work and landscape shots
  • The story and characters fail to engage
  • Easily forgettable


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