IN THE ACTOR’S SPOTLIGHT WITH JACK NICHOLSON REVIEW: “The Missouri Breaks” stars Jack Nicholson (The Shining , Something’s Gotta Give), Marlon Brando (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now), Randy Quaid (Brokeback Mountain, Independence Day), Kathleen Lloyd (The Car, Magnum P.I. [1980 TV series]), Frederic Forrest (The Conversation, Falling Down), Harry Dean Stanton (Alien, The Green Mile), John McLiam (First Blood, Sleeper), John P. Ryan (Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Runaway Train), Sam Gilman (One-Eyed Jacks, ‘Gator Bait), Steve Franken (Westworld , The Party), Richard Bradford (The Untouchables , Permanent Record), and James Greene (Parks and Recreation [TV series], Philadelphia Experiment II). It is directed by Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde , Little Big Man) and written by Thomas McGuane (92 in the Shade, Rancho Deluxe). Tom Logan (Nicholson) and his gang of horse theives must best a regulator named Lee Clayton (Brando) who is hired by a local ranch owner to stop his gang and pick them off one by one.
A Jack Nicholson Western. And co-starring Marlon Brando? Could it get any better? I don’t know how it could. Really, “The Missouri Breaks” is your atypical cowboy drama, but with a bit of spice. Nicholson plays Tom Logan, a petty horse thief who, along with his associates, look to make a run on the tables with their illegal work. However, their’s one thing stopping them: Robert E. Lee Clayton( played by Brando), a kooky Irish-American regulator who is hired to take out the gang at all costs. With this legendary duo fighting for screen time, there’s no telling how this picture will go down. Or at least, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. When I read Nicholson’s biography, it detailed just how chaotic this set was, with Brando taking the reigns to do pretty much whatever he wanted (boy was his character weird, even wearing a dress in one scene) and Nicholson competing to be top dog on the screen. Well, clearly Brando stole the show, as his role was far wackier and demanding of attention. Regardless of what went on behind the scenes, seeing these two bounce off each other was fun. I’ve hardly seen Brando in anything yet (the only other feature I’ve seen him in was “Superman”), so I wasn’t as awestruck to see him share lines with Nicholson, but I understood the territory. They were clearly the best part of this story, as when neither of them were onscreen I wanted the scene to jump back to them. Is this a bad thing? I don’t know. To be quite honest, the story doesn’t have much to it, but it’s acted brilliantly. Not only did Nicholson and Brando do well, but so did their co-stars, with solid entries from Harry Dean Stanton, Randy Quaid (surprised he was in this), and John McLiam. Kathleen Lloyd did alright, however her character was very odd to me. Not in the sense of Brando’s odd, where he was purposefully a nut, but I just couldn’t understand her motives. She wanted to jump in bed with Logan at every turn, even though she came off as a strong-willed woman. It was hard to figure out if she was meant to be always vulnerable or always stern. For that, I just blame the writing. Overall, there’s quite a bit to enjoy when watching “The Missouri Breaks,” with stellar performances, funny bits of humor, and a beautiful western landscape fit with great wardrobe and score (done by John Williams no doubt). I think what didn’t sell me on it as a fantastic picture is how bland it can be. The story is rather basic, with it essentially being about four men being picked off one by one by a skilled bounty hunter, and is stretched over the course of two hours, juggling itself between witty comedy and dry drama. It can be a bit too dry at times too; sometimes I checked the time, because there are moments that seem to drag on when the pacing could be faster. If all I am seeing is four thieves being hunted by a Brando, I don’t need much time for explanations. The relationship developed between Logan and Miss Braxton, while a nice reprieve, didn’t serve too much purpose, as the way it ends is the way it started, but more so empty handed. I don’t want to down “The Missouri Breaks” too much though. It has its appeal and excels in a few categories. I would consider watching it again for a further study, however I doubt I would alter my score too much. It’s not the greatest western, nor the greatest dramedy. It’s simply a somewhat fun watch with an electric pairing that should be witnessed at least in their shared moments. FINAL SCORE: 73%= Juicy Popcorn
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