The Missouri Breaks
It's the dead of winter. The wind is whipping and it feels like we are living in the frozen tundra of the Yukon. Now is the time to rent a movie that reminds us that it is not always cold.
Set near the Missouri River breaks in Montana, rancher David Braxton is losing 7% of his cattle and horse stock to rustlers. After catching a rustler and hanging him, Braxton realizes he is dealing with a rougher gang than he anticipated.
The deceased was a member of Tom Logan's (Jack Nicholson) gang. Tired of the high risk, low reward rustling business, they are growing restless. The gang wants to rob banks or trains to make more money. However, Logan talks them into setting up a ranch in Montana to serve as a way station for their booty, a base of operations that is needed to bring stolen livestock from Canada to buyers in the U.S. Killing a member of his gang is unacceptable, so Logan hangs one of Braxton's men in an act of retribution. This scares Braxton and compels him to hire an enforcer, Lee Clayton (Marlon Brando).
Clayton is a different breed of western man. Unlike most, Clayton doesn't live by the honorable code of the Wild West. Instead of looking a man in the eye and telling him why he is going to be killed, Clayton is cowardly and chooses to kill rustlers by shooting them in the back from 500 yards away. He has been hired to eliminate the Logan gang, and will not stop until he succeeds.
Will Clayton catch Logan and the gang? Will Logan's love for Braxton's daughter, Jane (Kathleen Lloyd) cause him to let his guard down?
Nicholson is great in this film. Remorseful for the life he has led, his love for Jane makes him realize that there is a different kind of life. Instead of always living on the run and looking over his shoulder, he wants to live a quiet life with a loving wife. However, he can't escape the only life he knows and the people who count on him.
Brando is less impressive. For reasons unknown and unexplained, he dons an Irish accent and portrays the character as a loon instead of creating a tough and fear-instilling murderer. The only time I truly felt Brando understood the character was when he confronts a member of Logan's gang, Todd (Randy Quaid), and befriends him in an attempt to gain information.
My other disappointment with the film is the lack of interaction between Brando and Nicholson. They share one fabulous scene, but Brando gets better material and more screen time with other members of the cast. Like most who will rent the film, I wanted to see two of the most explosive actors in the history of cinema take each other on.
Although the film takes on a comedic feel early on, it turns into a fine drama that will keep you waiting for the big finish. Rent it to watch Nicholson at the top of his game.
Director: Arthur Penn
Writer: Thomas McGuane
Jack Nicholson Tom Logan
Marlon Brando Lee Clayton
Randy Quaid Todd
Frederic Forrest .. Gary
Harry Dean Stanton .Calvin
John McLiam .. David Braxton
Kathleen Lloyd Jane Braxton
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