Trunk Call

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Published on March 19th, 2012 | by Ed Vallance

“Brake” opens on March 21 at IFC Center.

Running time: 92 minutes. Rated R.

“Your duty is to keep your mouth shut!” an ominously sweaty Stephen Dorff bellows into a flip-top cell phone from the trunk of a speeding car. Welcome to “Brake,” an epic, irony-free ode to American patriotism, and perhaps the most entertaining unintentional comedy of the year.

The plot is simple. Our secret service hero is locked in the trunk of a police vehicle. “So why is he locked up?” you may well ask. The terrorists put him there, of course. “Oh,” you might rejoin, “Which terrorists? Afghans? Iranians?” The answer to that question is never revealed to us. It is enough for the bad guys to have generically foreign accents. In this way, we establish who is evil and who is not. And while we’re establishing characters, let’s dress Stephen Dorff in a lumberjack shirt and tight Levi’s, Kenny Loggins-style. Bam! We now have the character of Jeremy Reins, instantly recognizable as a red-blooded American FBI agent with a penchant for gambling and excessively loud cell phone conversations.

So the evil terrorists (whose accents lie somewhere between East London and The Middle East) are attempting to extract vital information on the President’s whereabouts. This involves a post-9/11 bunker-type contraption called “Roulette,” the details of which are simply too tedious to get into here. Suffice it to say, those anti-American meanies take malicious pleasure in introducing killer bees and liquid explosives into a Perspex cage installed in the trunk. All this is secondary, though. What is really important is that locking Stephen in a car allows us endless shots of his crotch. It also gives him free reign to convey passion through the flaring of his nostrils, both of which effortlessly span the full range of filmic emotion:

- Moral indignation (slight flaring): “Don’t give in! That’s what the terrorists want! They want paranoia. They want to instill fear and panic!”

- Steely determination (imperceptible tightening): “I took an oath to America!”

- Political acumen (gaping, booger-baring snorts): “They’re taking away all our resources!”

My favorite moment comes roughly halfway through the movie when Reins gets shot in the leg. Heartless of me, I know, but by now I’m loving the fact that he is suffering as much as I am. “I don’t know how much longer I can last in here!” and “Is this shit for real?” are lines to which I can easily relate. I’m reminded of the slapstick scene in “The Naked Gun” when O.J. Simpson’s character slams his hand in a window, cracks his head on a bowling ball, jams his foot in a bucket, etc, etc. I just want the pain to keep coming and coming until I can’t take the hilarity any more.

And those “comic” scenes just keep rolling in. Watch out for the moment when Rein’s colleague incants The Lord’s Prayer in his last moments of life: (“Give us this day our daily bread, lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from…BOOM!”) Comedy gold. And let’s not forget the swarm of killer bees. Watch as Stephen lifts his tight-fitting T-shirt to wipe blood from his bee-ravaged brow. A flash of abs is reassuring. His body is primed and toned, ready to face those flabby, bomb-wielding maniacs head on. But wait. One of the bad guys has an American accent? Our hero is momentarily perplexed. “You’re American?! You’re a goddamn traitor, asshole!” More crotch, more nostril wagging.

Whoever writes Fox News content (where the news is “fair and balanced”) was surely involved–at least on some spiritual level―in the writing of “Brake.” And writer Timothy Mannion must surely be aware of the potential for sequels. Stephen locked in a microwave in downtown Baghdad. Stephen locked in the gun tower of a Russian tank on a white-knuckle ride to Disneyland. Stephen locked in Fidel Castro’s walk-in wardrobe, where his evil minions attempt telepathically to extract details of the Gap 2013 khaki collection.

Please brace yourselves. Because you will be trussed up in a trunk with Stephen Dorff for ninety grinding minutes, with only about five minutes of the action taking place outside of these sweaty confines, during which time it may be advisable to go and buy candy, take a leak, even have a cigarette, or possibly inject your eyeball with heroin in order to make the remaining minutes more bearable. I will leave it to you how best to tackle this last chunk of Stephen-centric action, but you absolutely must make it through to the end of the movie, if only to witness one of the least convincing plot twists in the history of western cinema.

“Brake” is very, very funny. Either that or it’s very, very sad. I have nothing against patriotism. Why not be proud of your country? And why not allow yourself to be angry with its enemies? But can the whole question of post-9/11 security really be reduced to a denim bulge and a pair of blood-plugged nostrils? The makers of “Brake” seem to think so. One hopes that the American public won’t be so easily convinced.

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About the Author

is a London-born writer and musician based in New York.

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