British director Jonnie Malachi’s gangster pastiche Breakdown is a vicious mongrel of a movie, frothing and snarling but with a fatal lack of bite in its bark. Owing much to previously more successful examples of its ilk, in style but certainly not in substance, Breakdown thrashes desperately in attempts at allegory but ends up floundering in an already saturated genre.
The twin thuds of silencer rounds ricocheting into the opening frame offer about as much duality as the film can manage. Assassin Alfie Jennings (Craig Fairbrass) hurriedly but efficiently portions himself into a car following his latest “transaction”. However, this hit man with a heart is haunted by visions of past contractual obligations and the burden of his burgeoning morality is growing too much to bear.
Soon after retrieving himself from the latest epiphany, he is summoned to the Manor of his superior, Albert (James Cosmo), a former Major with a penchant for moustaches and human taxidermy. Greeted at the door by Ronnie (Rab Affleck, another mustachioed tough guy), Alfie’s fortunes spiral downward from here on, after an incident during a routine torturing for a client.
The film continues, with scenes draped together under the toil of a script so rooted in aphorism and wince-inducing cliché that it is difficult to imagine how it has been made at all. The cataclysmic tedium of Fairbrass’ monosyllabic mumbling, coupled with yummy mummy trophy wife Cat (Olivia Grant) similarly struggling to get her words out through a perpetual pout and doe-eyed affectation, results in Breakdown not only managing to confuse notions of masculinity with violence, but also appearing to endorse them.
The direction itself, however, is the movie’s one saving grace; it looks very slick and well lit, despite being a patchwork of shots lifted from superior films and directors (most notably Sam Mendes’ infamous dinner table shot from American Beauty and Road to Perdition). Emmett Scanlan’s turn as Connor is also a much-needed tonic, oozing in and out of scenes like a malnourished, Usual Suspects-era Stephen Baldwin. Yet neither manages to rescue the film from sinking under the weight of its own amateurish failings and Breakdown is destined to end up sleeping with the fishes.
Breakdown is released in select cinemas on 15th January 2016.
Watch the trailer for Breakdown here: