Starring John Boyega, Nicole Beharie, Selenis Leyva, Michael Kenneth Williams, Connie Britton
Not your average bank robbery film, “Breaking” is based on the true story of a war veteran desperate to be seen and heard. Writer/Director Abi Damaris Corbin has orchestrated a small film that’s personal and intimate compared to stereotypical heist films. Nearly all conversations take place inside a Wells Fargo and with leading actor John Boyega (“Star Wars,” “Detroit“) performing on the other end of a telephone. The script’s ultimate goal is to highlight the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs systemic failures and the stress it causes to an already psychologically frail person. “Breaking” includes one of the final performances by the late Michael Kenneth Williams. It also showcases a robust and reliable performance from Boyega.
Unable to support his family or himself, honorably discharged Marine Brian Brown-Easley (Boyega) is pushed over the edge by a loophole that prevents him from getting his Veteran’s disability check. After exhausting every option, he finds himself homeless. Frustrated, he orchestrates a bank robbery .” The events resulting from this action don’t unfold as he anticipates. He doesn’t want the bank’s money, doesn’t want to hurt anyone, he only wants his disability compensation refunded. Bank manager Estel Valerie (Beharie) does more negotiating with Brian than the Cobb County task force, leisurely taking their time on the outside. The mild-mannered bank robber continually apologizes for his actions and behavior to his hostages, insisting he won’t hurt anyone.
Despite being billed as a thriller, the slow movement of the plot will not keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
Corbin’s script is an indictment of the unintended consequences of government policies meant to help those in need that often end up failing them and even making things worse. While the film dramatically highlights his mental breakdowns and frustrations, “Breaking” doesn’t take us far enough. The film’s small scale and release date indicate how little attention this story has or will receive. Despite being billed as a thriller, the slow movement of the plot will not keep viewers on the edge of their seats. The film’s narrative design doesn’t provoke the viewer enough. With a larger budget and more dynamic filmmaking, “Breaking” could have been a louder exposition on the challenges of wounded warriors.
Boyega’s performance is reminiscent of Denzel Washington’s work in “Philadelphia” or “John Q.” Most will recognize him as Finn from the newest “Star Wars” trilogy. Still, Boyega has used his franchise fame to build an acting career that expands outside that galaxy. Equally impressive here is Beharie (“42”, “Miss Juneteenth”), who, unlike co-star Selenis Leyva, evokes fear without overacting. A series of phone calls make up the film’s middle section. Even with heavy hitters like Connie Britton (“The White Lotus”) and Williams (“Motherless Brooklyn“) on the other line, it is hard to stay engaged until the film’s abrupt conclusion.
An unconventional crime drama film with a noteworthy performance by John Boyega.