Underwhelming crime flick from first-timer Jonnie Malachi, with Craig Fairbrass
A film whose promotional material suggests substantially more excitement than it actually offers, Breakdown is the first feature from writer-director Jonnie Malachi. Not quite the bargain-bin Brit-flick it at first appears, it still stumbles as it cobbles together elements of Reservoir Dogs, Taken, Kick-Ass, The Sixth Sense and various home invasion thrillers to produce something frequently underwhelming.
Craig Fairbrass (still best known for his reasonably short but prominent stint in EastEnders) plays Alfie Jennings, a contract killer in mental meltdown as years of grisly misdeeds finally catch up with him. He’s part of a small organisation of assassins known as the Homefront, led by the aristocratic Albert (James Cosmo of Braveheart / Game of Thrones fame), who’s also a grandfatherly figure to Alfie’s teenage daughter Maya (Amanda Wass). Meanwhile, Alfie’s porcelain, improbably naive wife Cat (Olivia Grant) is behaving as if she hasn’t been married to a hitman for the best part of 20 years.
Fairbrass delivers the requisite massive masculinity and has proved likeable elsewhere, but he’s a man with a solitary acting move in his locker and once he’s furrowed his brow – which he has cause to regularly – he’s got nowhere to go. This might have been less of a problem in a film with a greater emphasis on action but, given the focus on emotional turmoil, it quickly becomes a frustration.
An underemployment of music does nowt for the film’s momentum, which is also hampered by stilted, occasionally odd conversations, a sporadically amateurish look, some truly crap plans, and an overdependence on car-based (in)action. Beyond the sub-Statham Fairbrass, Breakdown is pretty well cast, even if the material lets the ensemble down: like a one-man band, Emmett J Scanlan – as Alfie’s right-hand man Connor – tries to inject the film with energy, yet his arc is erratic; Wass shows promise; a cameo from Bruce Payne is a high point; while Cosmo is a reliably classy and commanding presence, albeit there’s little for him to sink his teeth into.
Breakdown rises above some of its quick-to-DVD peers by acknowledging the psychological toll of violence, and by avoiding objectification and bringing the female characters into the action, however ineptly. Despite this, Malachi lacks the chops to realise his admirable ambitions; his debut doesn’t so much conk out, as never really get going.
Limited theatrical release from Fri 15 Jan. On DVD and digital from Mon 18 Jan.