The Missouri Breaks

The Missouri Breaks

Unknown - 2005
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Horse thief Tom Logan has set his sights on the horses and daughter of rancher David Braxton. However, Braxton has hired the infamous Lee Clayton to make sure that his possessions are safe and that any horse thief is stopped in his tracks.
Publisher: Culver City, Calif. : MGM Home Entertainment : Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, [c2005].
Edition: Widescreen.
ISBN: 9781404997035
Branch Call Number: DVD MOVIE WESTERN
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (approximately 126 min.) : sound, color ; 4 3/4 in.


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Dec 18, 2017

When released in 1976, the movie faced the highest expectations because of its two stars, both of whom had won Best Actor Oscars in recent years, and for the screenwriter and director. Anticipation was so great that most audiences and critics were bound to be let down, which is what happened. Missouri Breaks did not sell very many tickets. Reviewers took delight in putting cast and crew in front of their firing squads. Plus, the picture is a Western, a genre that once ruled Hollywood but whose golden age was a distant memory, even in the mid-1970s.

The context is different now, allowing for a more evenhanded appraisal of Arthur Penn's direction, Thomas McGuane's script, and the acting of Nicholson and Brando, along with a superb cast of supporting roles by names who later became much better known: Harry Dean Stanton, Frederic Forrest, Randy Quaid. Kathleen Lloyd, the leading woman, should have become prominent and popular; I don't know why she didn't, but she is first-rate in a difficult and lonely part (very, very few women in the picture).

Missouri Breaks isn't a consistent picture. Some parts work very well and are unforgettable. Others seem to be pointless, meandering, or undeveloped. The relationship between Nicholson and Lloyd should be the center of the movie, but it never reaches the convincing stage, which is not the fault of the actors.

Brando was singled out for most of the abuse from critics. Viewers who are familiar with his reputation, the good, bad, and ugly sides of it, will probably "get it" and find this Great American Actor at least interesting and watchable. Those who don't know why Brando was a legend will probably give up on him and on the movie.

The best performances are by Lloyd, Nicholson, and Stanton. Thomas McGuane's script scores some socially and culturally critical points, but does not add up to a coherent or compelling narrative. Penn's direction is restrained, a far cry from his brilliant and influential work on Bonnie and Clyde, but it fits the material, for the most part. Atmosphere and cinematography also have much to recommend them, with the look and style of Missouri Breaks compensating for the script's weaknesses. B/B+


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