Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of making my own 12 Westerns in 12 Months during 2020. I am watching these films not from an audience perspective but as a filmmaker, as a student of the genre.


Week Sixty Four: The Missouri Breaks

I appreciate this odd, disjointed film much more the second time. But truth be told, I was re-editing the picture the entire time it played and I really do wish I could get in the cutting room with this material. What would I change?

Well, I’d remove the whole romance, that’s one. I’m sure that Lloyd isn’t a bad actress but this role certainly argues for that assessment. Whether it’s miscasting, bad writing, or poor direction, the tender moments of this story are charmless and dull. The narrative just gets bogged down with this unnecessary subplot when it should focus on the rustler’s and Brando’s hunt for them.

I’d also cut down on the father character. His portrayal is completely uneven. Why does he become so easily frustrated with Brando’s assassin? It’s not justified and his character just bounces around in motivation like a ping pong ball.

That being said, as I stated at first, I do have admiration for parts of this film. Brando, seemingly blamed in most write-ups for his erratic behavior that changed the film’s course, is actually the best thing this movie has going for it. His eccentric, unpredictable performance is like no other the Western genre has ever seen or likely will ever see. From the melancholy brilliance of the bathtub scene to his cold acts of killing, the mad man of acting steals the show. If Penn was unable to direct him, all the better; I never thought Penn was that good anyway.

Nicholson and his group of rustler’s shine most when the film is grounded, not in the clumsy attempts at humor. This watch, I particularly liked Harry Dean Stanton’s character. He brings a real grit to this more experienced outlaw and his death scene is the best and most shocking of the picture.

Ultimately, one of the most disappointing aspects of this movie is the last fifteen minutes. The climax and conclusion are so poorly handled that it nearly ruins all the good things that came before. I cringed through all the final scenes, wishing I could go back in time and steer that ship aground a damn lick of sense. Oh well.

Seen on Amazon Prime.