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Breakwater (2023) Review

Somewhere out beyond the breakwater, in the midst of a storm, the mast of a long sunken ship rises from the water only to transform into a finger stirring crushed aspirin into a cup of coffee. That finger belongs to Ray (Dermot Mulroney, The Warrant: Breaker’s Law, Scream VI), a long time prisoner who ain’t getting out any time soon. Dovey (Darren Mann, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Minute You Wake Up Dead) however is getting out today, and Ray has a favour to ask of him.

Ray has a daughter, but after he got himself locked up, she cut him out of her life. He doesn’t want him to convince her to see him or call him, he just wants to know if she’s OK. Since Ray helped keep Dovey from ending up as somebody’s bitch, he agrees. Ray gives him a picture of her, a newspaper clipping of her standing by the mast of an old ship that washed up on the beach.

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It all sounds simple and innocent enough, but Breakwater is a modern noir, and things are never simple and nobody is innocent. Writer/director James Rowe (Blue Ridge Fall) starts throwing obstacles at Dovey almost as soon as he’s released, starting with his parole officer (Sonja Sohn, Bringing Out the Dead, Domain) who raises objections to him working for and living with his ex-con father (JD Evermore, Suitable Flesh, Django Unchained) and forbids him from leaving the state, a rule he’s promptly going to violate.

Rowe’s script quickie establishes Dovey as a decent guy. He may not have been innocent of the unspecified crime that got him locked up, but it’s easy to believe he simply made a bad choice and wants to turn his life around. So we can understand why his loyalty to Ray demands he take the risk of going looking for Eve (Alyssa Goss, How High 2, Bruh). On the other hand, by the time he’s taking that risk, we’re already seeing signs that Ray isn’t the man he’s presented himself as. Or, given the genre Breakwater resides in, we’re getting confirmations of the suspicions we already had. So it’s not much of a surprise when he makes a bloody escape.

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What was a surprise is how easily Dovey finds Eve. I expected a bit of mystery there, with him trying to find her, she was living under an alias, before his parole office realized he was gone. Instead, he finds her almost immediately and, unsurprisingly, they become involved. And since a noir needs a femme fatale, it’s also no surprise that she has secrets of her own, which puts Dovey in the middle of a very ugly situation.

For somebody who went twenty-five years between films, Rowe does a good job with Breakwater. The film moves along at a decent pace most of the time and the characters are sufficiently fleshed out that the cast has something to work with, and the viewer can get involved with them and their fates. Granted, Dovey seems too naive for somebody who’s come through the prison system, but that seems to be a trait of noir protagonists, cynical and suspicious of everything but what matters. Especially when a woman is involved.

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The performances are quite good, while he can’t change his character’s inability to see what we do, Mann at least made him likeable enough that I didn’t want to slap him upside the head. Goss does a believable job as a woman Dovey would risk his freedom and his life for. As the film’s antagonist, Mulroney is convincingly chilling as the psychopathic convict. Third billed Mena Suvari (American Beauty, What Lies Below) has a blink and you’ll miss it part as a waitress.

While it doesn’t contain a lot of surprises, Breakwater does have enough to be a decent thriller that has some genuinely tense moments and makes a nice nod to Cape Fear. It’s not a classic, but it is a nice diversion among the season’s killer Santas and Hallmark atrocities.

Vertical Entertainment has released Breakwater on VOD and Digital Platforms.

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