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[NYAFF ’21] ‘Breakout Brothers’ review: The path of least resistance

Easy does it.

Breakout Brothers is a classic prison break movie. Inmates who were previously enemies must now work together. Naturally, they all have their own motives. There is the altruistic prisoner, the gang leader who wants to attend his daughter’s wedding, and the former businessman who was framed. Plus, there is the corrupt prison administration. And what will they do if and when they get out?

The plot sounds simple because it is. This ends up affecting the film in good and bad ways. Prison break stories are similar to ones about bank heists. The bulk of the fun is in the planning and then watching things go awry. It is not about seeing the plan fail, but watching how it can possibly work. For some reason, Breakout Brothers decides to keep this part uncomplicated.

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This takes away much of the film’s charm. In order for a movie about breaking out of prison to be fun it has to be borderline fantastic. Climbing through vents and making molds of keys just does not work as well as it once did. There is still some of the natural tension that comes from the setting, but there is always the sense that Breakout Brothers should have done more.

[NYAFF '21] 'Breakout Brothers' review: The path of least resistance

On the plus side, this almost forces the audience to pay more attention to the main characters. While their motivations may be formulaic, Breakout Brothers provides three entertaining leads. The script manages to get across the humor and heart of the characters. Like the best movies from this sub genre, the potential escapees are easy to root for. By sheer force of will, they make the film watchable.

For better and worse, Breakout Brothers keeps things simple. The plan and its execution are straight and to the point. The leads are easy to get behind, despite them being simple characters with little depth. There is fun to be had, but it will have little do with the action. The film works thanks to its three main characters – just as the title suggests.

The New York Asian Film Festival takes place from August 6 – August 22. Screenings are live and online

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