Director Shane Stanley (Double Threat) claims that Break Even is based on events from his own life which he had writer CJ Walley (Southern Decadence) fashion into a film. How’s that for one-upping those claims of being “Based on true events”? I’m inclined to believe him though because using laundered drug money is probably the only way this film could have gotten made.
Four friends Jaq (Tasya Teles, Skin Trade, The 100), Rosie (Alisa Reyes), Sebastian (Brent Bailey, Crimson Winter, The Stairs), and Dash (Erik Fellows) are yachting somewhere off the Gulf Coast. While diving Rosie spots “The Black Lady” a warning from the cartels to stay away from the area. The guys of course go take a look. Instead of drugs, however, they find fifty million in cash.
Of course, you can’t go home and deposit that in the bank, but, coincidentally enough Jaq has some experience in money laundering. But this is a little more complicated than it appeared. The money was part of a deal between a crooked DEA Agent, Crowe (Joanna Pacula, Virus, Dinocroc) who happens to be Jaq’s mother, and a cartel boss Zalman (James Callis, House by the Lake, The Hollow) who just happens to be her father. And both sides want the money.
Break Even wants us to believe it’s an updated version of the chase films that used to play the drive-ins and late-night TV. The ones where likable everyday folk find themselves on the wrong side of the law and have to outrun everyone to keep their freedom and their loot. Films with chases, stunts, and not much doubt about how it’ll turn out.
Unfortunately, the script makes two miscalculations right from the start. The leads lack the charm and `charisma needed to get the viewer fully on their side. They’re actually rather obnoxious and douchey from the film’s opening moments. And while ripping off criminals is fine, their habit of robbing innocent folk doesn’t make me want to cheer for them.
Also, this kind of film works best when it’s a working or middle-class person that suddenly finds a life-changing amount of money. It’s a way out of a dead-end life in a crap job. Most viewers can identify with them. These guys are rich from the start, the money will just give them an even nicer life. That sense of identification isn’t there.
Break Even still could have been entertaining if the action scenes delivered. But for the first hour, there are none. Yes, they steal some guy’s speedboat and go fast, but they’re not being chased. They steal a women’s pickup and trailer, but again, it’s not a chase, nobody even knows where they are. There’s even time to sit around a campfire, smoke weed, and sing Kumbaya with Hank (Marshal Hilton, Primal Rage, A Clear Shot) and his group of modern hippies.
At its core, Break Even is a drama centered around Jaq coming to grips with her past and with who she wants to become. It isn’t an action film or even a thriller and anyone expecting one is going to be as disappointed as I was. Even Steve Guttenberg (Police Academy, Lavalantula) in a brief appearance as an arms dealer falls flat.