Starring Heather Graham, Jeremy Sisto, Valerie Azlynn, Randall Batinkoff, James Brandon, Jake Busey, Scarlett Chorvat, Chad Cunningham, Kevin Daniels, Michael A. Goorjian, Linda Hamilton, Tess Harper, Joe Hursley, Martin Kelly, Bianca Lawson, Marc Lynn, Billy Marti, Navid Negahban, Adam Nelson, Peter Pasco, Mark Sheppard, Jessica Stroup and Arthur Williams Jr.
Screenplay by Drew Pillsbury.
Directed by Alan White.
Distributed by First Look Pictures. 97 minutes. Rated R.
By some odd coincidence, this is the second new film called Broken that I’ve been asked to review in about a month.
This is surprising as movie studios almost never let such an overlapping of titles happen — particularly with two films which were made about the same time. (Rule of thumb is that a title is fair game again after about ten years.) If two movies have the same name in production, one or the other will usually blink and give up the title — and let’s face it, Broken is a vague enough designation that it could be easily changed. Amazingly, there is apparently even a third Broken film out there, though it has taken to calling itself Broken: The Movie to differentiate itself from the pack.
Ironically, in certain ways, the two of these movies which I have seen are very similar, if only on a superficial level. Both are extremely low-budget films (this one appears to have more money behind it, just because of the talent involved, but it was still obviously filmed on a shoestring.) Both films had very limited theatrical runs before being released on video.
In most other ways, though, the movies are completely different. The one from last month was a gut-churning and sadistic British horror show. The less said about it, the better.
This one is a stylish and stylistic American hard-knocks drama about a beautiful girl from a small town who moves to the big city in search of her dream, only to be nearly destroyed by drugs, dead-end jobs, cheap sex, petty crime and the wrong men.
So in the Broken sweepstakes, this is definitely the better of the two.
That doesn’t necessarily make it a good movie, though.
As you can tell from the quick encapsulation of the plot I just did, Broken is not exactly the most unique storyline ever — in fact I think the exact same storyline was used in pretty much every hair metal music video in the 1980s.
The text on the DVD box sprouts some hugger-mugger about Graham’s character experiencing each of the seven deadly sins, but while there is certainly a great deal of sinning going on at the depressing Blue Star diner, I think that is a real stretch. For example, where is gluttony? This takes place in a diner, it should be easy enough to cover. How about sloth?
Also, in the new millennium, a fear of the deadly sins seems to be a bit old-fashioned. Actually, the single scariest part of the deadly-sins-themed horror movie Se7en was when I found out what the seven deadly sins were — and that I and most people I know commit them on a daily basis.
Instead, we get to watch Graham’s character (all-too-symbolically named Hope) work the night shift at a tacky highway dive where everyone seems to have abnormal knowledge of her life.
These patrons include slimy b-movie producers, a madame and one of her girls, some kids stoned on X on their way to a one-night-stand, two junkies waiting for the man, a sleazy record exec trying to sign a young band and a battered and quiet middle-aged woman.
We are shown flashbacks in Hope’s life when she was bright and full of promise, an aspiring singer with limited talent but unlimited dreams. She meets a smooth-talking heroin junkie (played by Sisto) named Will. And yes, he is forced to use the line “When there’s a Will, there’s a way.” More than once. Will leads her astray, using her love to get her hooked.
Hope finally gets Will out of her life, leading to this life of quiet desperation on the night shift of the diner. She has given up her dreams and yet each and every patron in the place symbolizes different potential paths she could have (or still can) take in her life.
And we know Will is heading for the dive with a stolen car and a gun.
No good can come from this.
Heather Graham looks way too fit — too well built, glamorous and rested — to be someone who is recovering from a heroin habit. You never quite buy her in the role, which is a fatal problem in a film in which she is supposed to be the moral center.
Jeremy Sisto — who has essentially been playing variations on this same role ever since his breakthrough as Rachel Griffiths’ bipolar brother on Six Feet Under — does look the part of a heroin user, though.
In the end, the movie plays so many stylistic tricks — flashing forward and back, into and out of fantasy — that you have no idea what has actually happened and what was just the drug-fuelled imagination of the characters. In fact, the film flips back and forth between two completely separate and utterly different resolutions without bothering to tell how we got from one place to the other. Problem is, at that point, the audience doesn’t really care all that much, either.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 24, 2007.