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Brake (Gabe Torres, 2012)


Stephen Dorff single-handedly carries Brake, Gabe Torres’ high concept thriller about a Secret Service agent who wakes up trapped in a box… which happens to be inside of a speeding car. The basic execution of this thriller immediately calls to mind Rodrigo Cortés’s 2010 film Buried, which built claustrophobia after Ryan Reynolds woke up buried in a coffin. While Reynolds had a cell phone that he used to establish contact with the outside world Dorff is equipped with both a cell phone and a CB radio. As such, the camera is able to remain confined with the actor throughout the bulk of the film’s run time even as the script develops outside. It’s a great opportunity for Torres to demonstrate his directorial chops and an even better opportunity for the film to generate suspense (a giant red LED clock, visible from the first scene, that repeatedly counts down to zero certainly doesn’t hurt matters on that front).


Brake’s biggest problem is that from most aspects, including generating claustrophobia and getting the most possible visual mileage out of its constrained primary set, Buried is superior. Even as an expression of Americans’ feeling of blind victimization in a post-9/11 world, Cortés’ film trumps this one. While in Buried Reynolds played an overseas contractor in the Middle East who felt like the random victim of foreign terrorists, Dorff becomes involved in a far more elaborate terror scheme. From the radio’s descriptions of black clouds of smoke to the thick foreign accent of one of Dorff’s captors, the air of paranoia is palpable here at times, but it is ultimately less than in Buried effective for being so strenuously drummed up. The notion that less is more present in Brake’s visual style does not extend to its script.


All in all, when compared to Buried, Brake is sillier stuff. The tortures it puts its protagonist through are more inventive, playing at times like a Saw movie without the extreme gore (a bee attack is especially crazy), but its attempts to tell an epic story from within a box are strained in ways that never afflicted Buried. That isn’t to imply that Brake isn’t worthwhile. It’s a clever B-movie that has a number of fun twists up its sleeve. Its only real misfortune is that it happens to be the follow up to one of the most inspired directorial debuts in recent memory.




Jeremy Heilman