A rancher, a rustler, and a regulator face off in Arthur Penn's eccentric western. As a cover for their horse thievery, a gang of Montana rustlers, led by the laid-back Tom Logan (Jack Nicholson), buys a small farm adjacen... more »t to the ranch of their latest target/nemesis, Braxton (John McLiam). When the gang leaves Tom on the farm and heads to Canada for another score, Tom takes a shine both to farming and Braxton's rebellious, strong-willed daughter, Jane (Kathleen Lloyd). The slightly loco Braxton, however, hires the psychopathic regulator Lee Clayton (Marlon Brando) to root out the rustlers. With a series of unorthodox methods (and costumes), Clayton hunts down Logan and his gang one by one, even after Braxton fires him, but Logan isn't about to let Clayton (or Braxton) make him obsolete.« less
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 11/04/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Hard to say why this film has fallen out of favor. Great script by Thomas McGuane (92 in the Shade), star turns by Brando and Nicholson, and excellent supporting cast including Randy Quaid, Harry Dean Stanton, John Ryan, Kathleen Lloyd, R.L. Armstrong, and others. Story is of a cattle baron who's getting ripped off by a bunch of rustlers played by Nicholson, Stanton, Quaid and one other guy. The baron hears of a regulator (a guy who cleans up messes like that) named Robert E. Lee Clayton, and here he is, Brando in a terrific performance as an extremely unusual person, to say the least. He's basically a very nasty dandy that nobody likes. But he's good at his job--so good that...well, no spoilers here. Nicholson is an appealing sort, just trying to get by and when he and Lloyd meet, it's a good thing. He poses as a dirt farmer to win her sympathy, all the while stealing her pa's cattle. But turns out she isn't wild about her father anyway...yep, even in those days, there were dysfunctional families.The story is helped tremendously by the very odd quirks that Clayton exhibits, by the tension between him and the cattle baron, by the attraction of the "dirt farmer" and the daughter, and by the camaraderie of the gang. This is a lot of fun to watch; recommended.Arthur Penn movies don't get much attention these days; basically, none of his good ones except Bonnie & Clyde are on DVD--Little Big Man, Night Moves, and Missouri Breaks are all languishing on VHS."
A terrifying masterpiece
Ian Muldoon | Coffs Harbour, NSW Australia | 09/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A criminally underrated film (Maltin rates it a BOMB!!)which I consider one of the best Westerns made. Essentially a story of a bunch of criminals - rustlers- being brought to heal by the law represented by a ruthless landowner. However, it is also has the elements of great storytelling with good, represented by the rustlers, fighting evil, represented by the landowner. Yes , it is a clouded even twisted morality, but rings very true with many parallels to modern society. The rustlers, Jack Nicholson and his sublimely wonderful bunch which include Harry Dean Stanton, Randy Quaid, Frederick Forrest and John P. Ryan, are trying to make their way any way they can in a hard country. The landowner, who is an educated man with a large library and has reason and business as his master, whose focus is on the percentages of profit and loss, has seen his wife run off with the first unreasonable man she could find and whose beautiful daughter offers herself to Jack Nicholson -who beds her willingly - hires a Regulator to run down rustlers. This creature of the law, a bounty hunter of sorts, a sniper, is played with eccentric and powerful relish by Marlon Brando and is truly a fearsome character. It is a great script enlivened by humour - "why do they put Canada way up here" laments the rustlers when they venture North to rustle from the Mounties; wit; and glorious photography - the stunning shot of the foal moments before rescued by Nicholson, which stumbles towards the camera resonates as an innocent in a world of man made horror yet survives through an act of compassion by a man. This intelligent film is full of such contradictions. It is one the most terrifyingly realistic portraits of life on the frontier. The symbolism of the Regulator shooting the cabbages on Nicholson's farm says more about violence and the law and the misuse of power than many an essay. Two scenes of man crossing the Missouri River says more about the power of nature than the nightly news of hurricanes in Florida. The brothel scene is a revealing and realistic and sympathetic portrayal of women on the frontier. To view and review over time. Brilliant."
Unusual western for its time with some sharp performances, d
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 02/20/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Missouri Breaks" was about twenty years ahead of its time. I remember really liking this film when I first saw it in 1976 and the film has aged remarkably well although the conclusion doesn't live up to the promise of this unconventional Arthur Penn ("Bonnie and Clyde", "Little Big Man", "Night Moves") western. Based on the novel by Thomas Mcguane ("Tom Horn")and scripted by McGuane and Robert Towne ("Chinatown", "Personal Best"), the literate script does indeed remind one of "Deadwood" (without as many obscenities)and other revisionist westerns. The pairing of Nicholson and Brando (along with strong support from Frederic Forest, Harry Dean Stanton, Randy Quaid, and the wonderful Kathleen Lloyd as the forthright love interest of Logan. For some people Marlon Brando's colorful over-the-top performance is a distraction for others a delight. It certainly is eccentric and adds color to the film.
The DVD transfer looks extremely good here with robust colors and the soundtrack sparkles even though it's presented in its original mono format. Another reviewer remarked on the PG version vs. the R rated version of the film lamenting the loss of some of the colorful dialogue. The PG version IS the R rated version of the film. I'm not sure if the reviewer is confused or not but this is exactly the same as the theatrical version of the film. There aren't two separate versions of the movie. Perhaps this film was re-rated and, like "Midnight Cowboy" standards have changed over time. This is exactly the version I saw in theaters (and on HBO when it aired) years ago. What was once an R is now a PG, etc. Sadly there aren't any extras except for the original theatrical trailer. Since Arthur Penn is (at this writing)alive it would have been nice to have a commentary track or, at the very least, a retrospective featurette on the impact of this marvelous film. It has clearly influenced other western films and TV shows since it was first released. A cult classic, "The Missouri Breaks" certainly has earned its reputation as an eccentric and off-beat western.
Horse thief Tom Logan (Jack Nicholson)is a marked man. Logan and his gang establish a ranch to quietly move stolen horses. When rancher David Braxton (John McLiam)learns about this he takes on the role of judge and jury he hiring Robert E. Lee Clayton (Marlon Brando)a bizarre assassin for hire to kill Logan and his band of rustlers.
The pacing of the film is a bit slower than more contemporary films (remember this was made in 1976 before the rapid fire editing style of "Star Wars" became more common place). The film, though, pays off in spades even if the conclusion of the movie doesn't quite live up to the promise of the film."
librarian | alaska | 09/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I wonder about the humorless, linear-thinkers who cannot get past over-analyzing this gem of a movie. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes life is twisted. Once in a while a movie is not made, it just evolves. Relax and enjoy the ride, peckish purists. The scene where Marlon ices his aching tooth with casket ice is hysterical - that alone keeps me watching it time and again. The director did his job when he allowed the cast to do theirs in such intuitive ways. The Missouri Breaks rocks."
John Legry | Portland, OR USA | 03/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Leonard Maltin calls "Missouri Breaks" a BOMB. I think he's looking in the mirror and sees everything backwards. "Missouri Breaks" is a studied, nuanced, greatly acted, directed, scored, designed, and photographed masterwork. It is pure genius from Penn, Brando and Nicholson in carefully shaded characters, and a marvelously talented supporting cast headed by Harry Dean Stanton and Kathleen Loyd. There are no false steps.
The violence Maltin decries is sudden, graphic, and realistic. It shows the brutal nature of the frontier American experience directly, without moral or relish. If anything, it is sincere reportage, which may be what Maltin really finds objectionable; we do like our pretty myths. Students of American western frontier history will instantly recognize the authenticity of setting, society, and events.
He calls it "plodding." It's about a bunch of lazy no-count horse thieves, who are at bottom just human beings with tough beginnings trying to survive in tough conditions. It is a leisured film, but not casual. The viewer enters the world on the screen, to dwell intimately therein as a participant observer, seeing at ground level how these people deal with the events of both a mundane and peculiar life. "Breaks" creates a solid environment with a natural pace that enters the remorseless realm of Greek tragedy. We watch helplessly as the players march relentlessly to an avoidable, but inevitable climax. We see the survivors in the brief still aftermath fumble for new lives, and new beginnings.
If as Maltin says, "Missouri Breaks" is a BOMB, I guess I like this BOMB VERY MUCH. It is a mature, fully realized vision, film as literature that matures like fine wine. Highly recommended for people who think. Leonard? "