In 2010 Rodrigo Cortez made his claustrophobic thriller Buried with a novel approach – main star Ryan Reynolds was the only on-screen actor as he dealt with being buried alive by terrorists. It was a tense, pulse-pounding piece of cinema that worked on every level. Fast-forward two years and film-maker Gabe Torres takes this technique and melds it into his own creation, with Stephen Dorff in the lead role.
Dorff plays Secret Service agent Jeremy Reins who wakes up trapped in what appears to be a perfectly sealed perspex box contained within the boot of a car. With a CB radio at his disposal which he uses to communicate with another kidnap victim and what turns out to be terrorists – as well as passing truckers – Reins must determine why he has been kidnapped and what he can do to get out of his predicament alive.
Where Cortez’s Buried was novel and refreshing, Brake seems like a cheap knock-off with a few added twists. Dorff’s character comes across as a lot more composed which could be attributed to the CIA training but it does come off as unrealistic. There are other on-screen stars too – Tom Berenger, Chyler Leigh and JR Bourne to name but three – who play a part in proceedings to various degrees of success and failure.
Unfortunately, any hint of tension is killed off by some mundane dialogue, unbelievable (in a bad way) set pieces and Dorff’s inability to make us sympathise with his character. There is an attempt to make an emotional connection with him when he speaks to his former wife, but it falls flat. Even the fact he’s trapped in a sealed box with a digital clock ticking down to something unknown doesn’t help. It’s like an odd hybrid of 24 and Buried. At one stage, with Reins screaming: “God dammit…”, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was Jack Bauer in shot.
Brake, for the most part, isn’t a terrible film. It’s fairly average. However, the final sequences where twists and turns revealed are so contrived and forced it appears director Torres was attempting to be smart with his finale. Unfortunately it’s so preposterously telegraphed that it unravels any of the decent work to create mystery before it.
Dorff does his best with what he’s given, although this trend for characters to speak out loud about what they’re thinking is beginning to grate. If anyone was to wake up in a box it’s a given they’d be thinking “What the hell is this?” There is absolutely no reason why it has to be vocalised and the inclusion of such moments do nothing but aggravate.
The fact Brake does nothing new hinders it more than it helps it and it ultimately resembles the poorer, less impressive relation to the superior Buried.