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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Seeing the movie for the second time after a break of some twenty plus years, I realized that I was watching a film that deserved more attention than it has received over the decades. Apart from the fact that it contains one of the finest lines in cinema "You know what woke you up? You just had your throat cut!" most reviewers have logically zoomed in on the obvious-the swaggering performance of Marlon Brando at the peak of his career and an overshadowed but endearing performance of Jack Nicholson. Yet the film belongs not to these two worthies but to Arthur Penn, the director.

    Penn seems to be constantly attracted by characters that are out of the ordinary-those who are constrained either physically or mentally ("The Miracle Worker," "The Chase" "The Little, Big Man," "Night Moves" etc.). He loves anti-heroes. In "The Missouri Breaks" there are three anti-heroes-a rustler, a cross-dressing bounty hunter, and a gay rancher who reads "Tristam Shandy" but serves as judge and jury as he metes out death sentences to make his little world better to live in.

    One would assume in a film studded with such unlikable characters that Penn would paint them black. Penn does the opposite-he manipulates the viewer to sympathize with the bad guys. Nicholson's horse rustler is smart-he knows the circumstances when a gun would have a bullet in it. He knows how to court a woman by brewing Chinese tea in the Wild West. Brando's bounty hunter is equally erudite-he carries a book on ornithology while horseback as he watches eagles seek its prey through binoculars, just as he follows desperadoes before he moves in to his kill. The ranch owner, with a gay lover on the ranch, is a good father and well read with 3500 works of English literature in his library. What a weird set of anti-heroes! One would have expected good women to balance the bad guys. The women of Penn have shades of gray-"Missouri Breaks" is no exception. The leading lady seems to be fascinated by the bad guys and "demands" sex. Another rancher's wife has illicit sex with a guest.

    The final sequence of two important characters leaving for different destinations after checking out where they would be 6 months hence leaves the viewer guessing of what would happen. Penn's films tend to end with a perspective of a detached outsider, making the characters quixotic and the end open to several viewpoints.

    Brando was a treat to watch;-only his "Quiemada" (Burn!) appealed to me more among all his films. Interestingly, in both films Brando had problems with the director and took matters in his own hands.

    The music and screenplay are in many ways a tribute to the rising fame of the spaghetti Western and therefore quite stunning also because of the very interesting and intelligent use of sound editing. The opening 15 minutes of the film underline this argument, although this is a Penn film and not a Sergio Leone film.

    All in all this film is a major western as it has elements that never surfaced in most others:-women who were not mere attractions, the effect of carbines on those shot by them, and of course the slow death by hanging, in contrast to the lovely countryside (stated by the leading lady). This western entertains in a way most others do not. (Exceptions are William Fraker's "Monte Walsh", "Will Penny," and Altman's "McCabe and Mrs. Miller"). Thank you, Mr. Penn and all those that contributed to making this deceptively interesting film so enjoyable.
  • 'The Missouri Breaks' was filmed from a screenplay by National Book Award-winner Thomas McGuane, whose novels are often characterized as 'revisionist westerns', a sort of sub genre in which the romantic conventions of the western--the noble, idealized hero in the white hat taking on swarthy outlaws or bloodthirsty Indians, occasionally aided by a lone, sage, 'noble savage'-type Indian sidekick--are upended for the sake of a muddier, morally ambiguous, more historically truthful account of 'how the west was won.'

    Suffice it to say that there are no heroes in 'The Missouri Breaks.' Our protagonist, Tom Logan (Jack Nicholson), is the de facto leader of a gang of fun-loving outlaws in post-Civil War Montana, pistoleros who make their living stealing horses from wealthy ranchers, laughing all the way, a bit like Robin Hood's Merry Men, only Logan and his boys keep the money and spend it on whiskey and whores. Egomaniacal rancher David Braxton (John McLiam) captures and hangs one of Logan's gang, which retaliates by returning the favor to Braxton's ranch foreman on the same noose. Intent on ridding the country of horse thieves and avenging his friend's murder, Braxton sends for Robert E. Lee Clayton (Marlon Brando), the most feared of the Regulators, mercenary frontier detectives famous for their ruthlessness and their ability to kill suddenly and without warning from long distances with their trademark Creekmore long-rifles.

    Posing as an aspiring cattle-rancher, Logan buys an abandoned ranch next to Braxton's property to serve as a relay station for moving stolen horses across the plains. He is left to mind the ranch while his buddies move the latest take of horses, and while busying himself reviving the ranch's garden and orchard, Logan begins a relationship with Braxton's daughter Jane (Kathleen Lloyd). Jane suspects that Logan is an outlaw, which makes him only more appealing to her, as she has grown to resent her father's tyranny, particularly after witnessing the slow death of the young horse thief from Logan's gang.

    Enter Robert E. Lee Clayton, one of the strangest and most curious of Marlon Brando's acting creations. 'The Missouri Breaks' was Brando's last starring role before 'Apocalypse Now!' (1979), and was preceded by 'The Godfather' (1972) and 'Last Tango in Paris (1972). Like Coppola and Bertolucci, director Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde) clearly sensed that the best thing to do with Brando the Mad Genius was to sit back and watch. From the moment Brando's Clayton appears--bursting in on the funeral of the murdered foreman dressed like a western dandy in fringed leather coat and scarf, bellowing and yanking the corpse up out of the open casket to borrow a few of the ice cubes used to keep the body from decomposing as a compress for a tooth-ache--we know we are in for some vintage Brando.

    Nicholson is typically likable, but he isn't given much to work with; 'The Missouri Breaks' is clearly Brando's show, as he systematically works his way through Logan's gang, farting, spritzing himself with perfume, dressing in drag as a frontier granny, singing love songs to his horse, and delivering odd soliloquy's while constantly munching on carrots. Lee Clayton is comic, but he is also sadistic and perverse. Brando seems to be having the time of his life, and it's a genuine pleasure to watch one of the most brilliant and magnetic screen actors of all time given free reign to fashion the lunatic Clayton.

    Like much of McGuane's fiction, 'The Missouri Breaks' has a muted, understated tone disturbed only by acts of brutal, unsentimental violence. The scenes and dialogue are meant to reflect the stark beauty of the Montana plains along the fall line of the great Missouri River (the title of the film refers to the long stretch of the river between the plains and the mountains, the corridor by which Lewis and Clark made their way to the Pacific). The plot is fairly predictable once Lee Clayton arrives and starts hunting the horse rustlers, and so the film's main pleasure is in the acting performances, of which only Brando's is truly exceptional. Nicholson can do no wrong, but Tom Logan is a relatively bland, inarticulate character, and, hidden behind an unruly beard, Nicholson's facial expressions can't compensate for the minimalistic dialogue to create a more distinct character. There is little apparent chemistry between Nicholson and Kathleen Lloyd, who followed this film up with winners like 'Deathmobile' and 'Skateboard: The Movie' before settling into a long string of guest shots on TV. Given all the fun Brando seems to be having, Jack must have felt gypped.

    'The Missouri Breaks' is all about Brando, and is well-worth watching just for his scenes. It also features an excellent soundtrack by John Williams ('The Missouri Breaks', interestingly, was Williams' project between 'Jaws' and 'Star Wars') and fine supporting performances by Frederic Forrest ('Chef' in 'Apocalypse Now!'), Randy Quaid (a very much underrated dramatic actor in his younger, pre-'Vacation' days), and cult-favorite Harry Dean Stanton ('Wise Blood,' 'Repo Man,' 'Paris Texas') as Logan's fellow horse-thieves. Jack is Jack--one of the greats, with a career that easily stacks up to Brando's--but here, unfortunately, he's stuck playing the straight man to Brando's nut-case, making the movie a disappointment for viewers hoping to see two of film's finest actors at their best.
  • If you're looking for a Howard Hawks/John Wayne-style western, the Missouri Breaks may not be for you. It is, in my opinion, the most sadly underrated western ever.

    This film didn't get the treatment it deserved when it came out in the 70s in part because its two stars, coming off movies like the Godfather and Chinatown, were box office powerhouses in their prime when uniquely paired together. I don't know what film could have matched the expectations of the critics, especially a western that was probably more low key and off-beat than anticipated.

    I will never forget the first time I watched this movie and how pleasantly shocked I was at how good it actually is.

    Brando's portrayal is so wonderfully eccentric it gets more and more enjoyable with repeated viewings. Nicholson's, meanwhile, exemplifies the charisma that we associate with him being at the top of his craft during the Chinatown/Cuckoo's Nest era in his career.

    While the two big name stars don't disappoint, the rest of the cast is stellar. Kathleen Lloyd gives the kind of performance from a lesser known actress that has me scrambling for the video guide wondering what other films she might be seen in. Randy Quaid's role is fascinating for being so early in his career. But Harry Dean Stanton delivers an especially understated, yet weighty performance as Nicholson's closest partner.

    The dialog is often humorous, especially one scene between Lloyd and Nicholson where he drawls: "Keep the dang thing, I don't want it!"

    The Missouri Breaks has extremely interesting, individual characterizations with authentic settings that take you back to a credible old West that is not Hollywood back-lot. The story is funny at times, but extremely tense as it approaches its climax.

    Nothing irks me more than a movie that is wonderful in all aspects expect for the score, but that is not an issue here. John Williams' music, with occasional emphasis on the harmonica, fits well with the style of the movie.

    If you appreciate the genre, this is entertaining and worth owning. It's the kind of western that should be watched several times to appreciate some of the more subtle nuances and details.
  • This film has suffered some pretty undue criticism. It gets the dreaded `BOMB' rating in Leonard Maltin's guide, followed by `The worst film of a great director.' I haven't seen more than a couple of Penn's other films, so I can't comment on that, but it is hardly a bomb. Sure, it is a little slow moving, and it doesn't quite feel like the themes of the film were totally panned out, but most of the film is very good. I'm assuming Brando's the problem with most of the film's detractors. Wow, is his performance weird here. If you ever wanted to find the missing link between The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, here it is. He plays a bounty hunter of sorts hired to discover some horse thieves and murderers. This character is very eccentric, and I'm guessing that Brando had a lot of artistic input on this one based on his later career. He's basically a psycho killer, and he seems much more lawless than the criminals he's seeking. He also speaks with an Irish brogue, some of the time. Personally, the waxing and waning accent is my only real problem with the role, and I'm not a big accent baby anyway. It's a tiny flaw in what is otherwise a very interesting performance. Brando creates a very memorable character. Jack Nicholson plays his rival. He's almost ready to go straight, having found a nice, small ranch and a girlfriend (Kathleen Lloyd). His performance is subdued, and I really think Nicholson is best when he's like that. This isn't his greatest performance, but it is subtle and it's very good. The flaws of the film are offset by the number of great scenes in it. Almost every single actor gets one scene alone with Brando, and both Randy Quaid and Harry Dean Stanton deliver excellent performances especially in those scenes. Nicholson's two best scenes are also alone with Brando. I would guess than he had something to do with their co-star; I do think Brando deserves some credit for the excellence of these scenes. Penn's direction is nothing to write home about. I love the two other films I've seen by him, Mickey One and Bonnie and Clyde, but, let's face it, he was more or less ripping off the Italian and French cinemas of the time, respectively. Missouri Breaks is much more straighforward in that respect, and perhaps it is here that it could have used a boost of energy. 8/10.
  • Leofwine_draca23 September 2018
    Warning: Spoilers
    THE MISSOURI BREAKS is one of the odder westerns of the 1970s, featuring a typically larger-than-life supporting role for Marlon Brando who seems to be in his own little world. The main thrust of the tale concerns Jack Nicholson's anti-hero, a horse thief and leader of a gang which Brando is soon in hot pursuit of. Brando gets long reams of dialogue to spout and occasionally cross-dresses while killing the bad guys. Nicholson is typically crude yet likeable, and the genre trappings are well-handled in that grittility realistic style of the 1970s. The well-judged supporting cast includes the likes of Randy Quaid, John P. Ryan and Harry Dean Stanton all of whom can be relied upon to entertain.
  • I can't believe this movie has been so trashed & overlooked over the years. Like Mickey One & Left-Handed Gun, it's one of Arthur Penn's more offbeat & original films. Marlon Brando gives a highly inventive performance & demonstrates once more that he is one of the great comic performers of the screen (as he did more conventionally in Teahouse of the August Moon). To see Jack Nicholson (who is also excellent in this) with Brando is a terrific treat. Glad I found this on Laserdisk.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Coming off the success of "The Godfather" and "Last Tango in Paris", one can only imagine what may have possessed Marlon Brando to team up with Jack Nicholson in an off the wall film like "The Missouri Breaks". Nicholson himself had already reached super stardom with "Chinatown" and "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", so this project wasn't so much a risk for either actor as an opportunity to explore some 'outside the box' boundaries of a genre generally calling for shoot 'em up action and a clear delineation between good guys and bad guys.

    The thing is, there are no good guys here. Nicholson's character Tom Logan is the leader of a gang of horse rustlers, and Brando's Robert E. Lee Clayton is a Wyoming regulator from Medicine Hat hired to take him down. Even Clayton's employer Braxton (John McLiam) operates outside the law as it were, taking frontier justice to it's limits in an early hanging scene. To describe each of these characters as morally ambiguous is an understatement, the only ambiguity might be in the timing of their firearms.

    Director Penn challenges the audience a couple of times, the first of which utilizes Jane Braxton (Kathleen Lloyd) using reverse psychology on Logan to consummate an 'illegal' tryst. Later on, there's a clever juxtaposition of elements that plays out with church goers off screen singing 'Bringing in the Sheaves' as Logan's gang 'lets out' a corral full of horses.

    Clever too is the way Logan and Clayton trade off their upper hands; Clayton in the cabbage patch scene letting Logan know that he knows, while Logan returns the favor in the bathtub confrontation. That's why the film's devastating finale comes as such a shock - no battle, no showdown. This is not your father's Western.

    Though this might not have been Marlon Brando's strangest role, he certainly plays it like it would be. You'll catch hints of the 'Godfather' persona in a couple of scenes; feeding his horse a carrot comes to mind. For sheer brilliance, you just can't beat the sadistic enterprise of the old granny. At the same time, watch for hints of the 'Here's Johnny' characterization from "The Shining" when Nicholson's character glazes over as his gun hands go down one by one.

    Speaking of which, Randy Quaid, Frederic Forrest and Harry Dean Stanton perform admirably as Logan's bunch. Each of their characters receive a creative ticket to Boot Hill courtesy of Robert E., and in true regulator fashion, not one of them saw it coming.
  • Just watched it again. Fantastic movie…. time has done wonders for Missouri Breaks! Several scenes appear to be 'natural' (Like when a horse shakes for no reason, mid dialogue – but the acting keeps rolling) The film is also quite dramatic and eery. Really off beat and also quite art- house. Love it. great music score, and funnily enough, very realistic. Plus sides …. Movie Poster (Bob Peak art) wonderful poster. Lovely sparse film score by John Williams. Brando's eccentricity keeps you captivated. Jane Braxton character….very loyal. So many good things about this movie, things that you never see in to-days modern movie making. Missouri Breaks sure packs a punch, even today. A hidden masterpiece worth revisiting indeed.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The 1970s saw the release of a number of idiosyncratic or revisionist Westerns (Altman's "Buffalo Bill", "Soldier Blue", "Two Mules For Sister Sarah", "The Life And Times of Judge Roy Bean", "El Topo", "Little Big Man" etc etc). Arthur Penn's "The Missouri Breaks" isn't as outlandish as some of these films, yet still manages to seem wholly strange. Through long, glacial and grand, Penn's film seems preoccupied with small moments and gestures. It's a tiny tale directed with an odd self-importance.

    The plot? Jack Nicholson plays a minor criminal who eventually decides to settle down on a small farm. The problem? A bounty hunter, played by Marlon Brando, begins to delve into Nicholson's past. One by one Brando kills Nicholson's buddies, until the duo meet for a final showdown. Sounds generic? The film approaches all its clichés from odd angles, subverts all expectations, and stretches and elongates sequences which would otherwise be brushed past.

    More interesting is Marlon Brando's character, Robert E. Lee Clayton. During this period Brando was creating a number of absolutely ridiculous but downright entertaining characters ("The Godfather", "Burn!", "Mutiny on the Bounty" etc), and his Lee Clayton is no different. Part madman, part genius, flamboyant, incomprehensible, cruel, wild, professional, whimsical, effete, sadistic, strange and deliberately at odds with the naturalism of the rest of the cast, Brando's Clayton steals every scene he's in. He toys with his cast like a cat toys with a ball of yarn.

    What's interesting is that Brando completely contradicts the intentions of screenwriter Thomas McGuane. McGuande wanted a film about "people and not canvases". He wanted something low-key, slow and human; to capture the tempo and tone of the "real" West. Brando, however, then came in and completely re-wrote his character, demanded huge changes, invented his own weapons and improvised and rewrote much of his (hilarious) dialogue. The result is a film which seems to be pulling in two completely contradictory directions.

    It's hard to know what else "The Missouri Breaks" is about. Maybe it's about things breaking up and breaking apart. Everyone in the film is torn apart, loses something, and traditional western archetypes seem to be set up only to eventually be confused, made impotent or disposable. Lee Clayton himself seems to be portrayed as a watcher, a man always using binoculars and telescopes and who eventually intrudes upon the film from "outside", tearing things up as he does so. He overwhelms everything, and seems recognised as a threat only by Nicholson, who tries his mightiest to get rid of this weird little man who disobeys all rules.

    On the negative side, the film is "revisionist" and "subversive" in only the most trite and banal ways, Nicholson never convinces as a man of the period and the film is far too long for such thin material, even if its length does lend a strong, portentous weight to its climax. The film contains a number of great sequences, perhaps the best of which sees Brando donning an old woman's bonnet and dress, delivering odd dialogue whilst a burning log cabin lights up the night sky. Other odd moments include Brando kissing a horse and even singing it love songs. He truly was bizarre.

    7.9/10 – See "The Long Riders", "Terror in a Texas Town", "The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid", "Lonely are the Brave" and "Broken Lance". Worth one viewing.
  • The Missouri Breaks gets its title from the fact that the scene of the action takes place in Montana at the head waters of the tributary streams that eventually flow in and make up the Missouri River. It seems like you have to cross a lot of streams in order to get any place in that country, no matter which side of the law you're on. And we do get to see it from both points of view.

    Jack Nicholson heads an amiable gang of horse thieves who probably are no better or worse than a lot of those who might be deemed on the right side of the law. They've been stealing a lot from big rancher John McLiam and he's about had it. His answer though might be worse than the horse thieves.

    It's to call in a regulator which is a fancy term for a bounty hunter. The guy he gets is Marlon Brando who it could be argued is in his most villainous role on the screen. This is a swaggering Irish brogue speaking gunfighter who really does love his work.

    Brando's ways start to rub McLiam the wrong way not to mention his daughter Kathleen Lloyd the wrong way. She's on bad terms with her father and has taken a shine to Nicholson in any event.

    A lot of the same issues are dealt with in The Missouri Breaks that were in the fine Kirk Douglas western, Posse. The difference is that Douglas operates with a professional posse and he's got career plans which call for him to bring in outlaw Bruce Dern and his gang by any means necessary. Brando's not got any plans other than to do what he does, kill people with a license which he thoroughly enjoys.

    The final confrontation with Nicholson and Brando is a gem from director Arthur Penn. There's very little words, but the expressions on the faces of both men are absolutely priceless, worth 10 pages of dialog.

    The Missouri Breaks is the last of three westerns that Marlon Brando did, One Eyed Jacks and The Apaloosa are the others. This is definitely the one I enjoyed best.
  • Starring two titans of cinema in Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson, The Missouri Breaks sees Arthur Penn (Bonnie & Clyde) direct, the screenplay provided by Thomas McGuane (Tom Horn) and John Williams composes the score. In the supporting cast are Harry Dean Stanton, Randy Quaid, Kathleen Lloyd, Frederic Forrest and John McLiam. With all these people in place the film was one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Anticipation that was not met at the time as the film became a critical and commercial failure. However, time has been kind to the piece and now it shows itself to be far better than the iffy reputation that's afforded it.

    The story is a sort of working of the Johnson County War that surfaced in the early 1890s in Wyoming, where newer ranchers tried to settle but were set upon by the more established cattle barons of the land. One of the tactics by the wealthier ranch owners was to hire gunmen to terrorise anyone they saw as a threat. Here in Penn's movie we see David Braxton (McLiam) ruthlessly deal with anyone who he sees as a threat to his property. However, when someone enacts revenge on him by hanging his foreman, Braxton hires himself a "Regulator" named Robert E. Lee Clayton (Brando) to seek and destroy as it were. This spells bad news for the rustling gang led by Tom Logan (Nicholson), especially since Logan has started to form a relationship with Braxton's daughter, Jane (Lloyd). Somethings gotta give and blood is sure to be spilt.

    The most popular word used in reviews for the film is eccentric, mostly in reference to Brando's performance. The big man was growing ever more erratic off the screen and sure enough he changed the make up of his character and improvised at his leisure. Yet it does work in the context of the movie. With his dandy nastiness playing off of an excellent Nicholson turn, McGuane's richly detailed screenplay gets added bite, particularly during the more solemn parts of the story; where patience would be tried were it not for the brogue Irish Clayton. With Penn at the helm it's no surprise to find the piece is an amalgamation of moods. Poignancy hangs heavy for the most part as we deal in the ending of an era and the need to move on. But Penn also delivers much frontier action and snatches of cheery comedy. Then there is the violence, which doubles in shock value on account of the leisurely pace that Penn has favoured. It's sad to think that one of the best splicers of moods was so upset at the reaction to his film he quit cinema for the next five years.

    The film, well more realistically the reaction to it, possibly sounded the death knell for the Western genre until Eastwood & Costner refused to let it die. The 70s was an intriguing decade for the Oater, with many of them veering between traditional and revisionist. But of the many that were produced, the ones that dealt with the passing of the era, where the protagonists are soon to be relics of a tamed wilderness, have an elegiac quality about them. Penn's movie is fit to sit alongside the likes of Monte Walsh, The Shootist and The Outlaw Josey Wales. Yes it's quirky and is slowly driven forward, but it has many qualities for the genre fan to gorge on. 7.5/10
  • Marlon Brando died yesterday. I just got the news and felt compelled to comment on this flick specifically, because it seems that whenever I ask of self-professed Brando or western fans, "Have you seen Missouri Breaks?" the answer is, "No."

    But what a great western! And what a great performance by Brando! Yes, it is 'quirky;' yes, Brando uses a different accent in nearly every scene; and yes, his performance seems at times almost improvised, shooting off in unexpected and rewarding directions. For all this quirkiness, however, I never once felt that the character's affectations were Brando's, or that Brando was somehow on-the-outside-looking-in, overly pleased at his own theatrical acrobatics. This is a brilliant man at work here, living in the moment, a vessel of the character. This has always amazed me about Brando's work: that working from the inside, he can so transform the outside--the physicality and mannerisms of his characters.

    Good bye, Mr. Brando, and thank you.
  • While Marlon Brando was in his prime, he was considered by many to be a genius actor. In the mid to late part of his career, however, there were some performances that might just indicate that his hold on reality was slipping a bit or perhaps he just didn't care. Some chalked it up to his greatness--and they adored these 'eccentric' performances. Others, just felt confused--after all, he WAS a great actor...but these odd parts just seemed weird and often off-the-cuff. His real-life antics didn't help any--with some VERY high profile occasions where he showed up on sets completely unprepared and unwilling to take conventional direction. With "Apocalyse Now", he showed up---grossly overweight, never having read the novel or screenplay and insisted on doing things 'his way'--which often meant very random method acting that the director, Francis Ford Coppola. Here with "The Missouri Breaks", Brando once again gave a VERY idiosyncratic performance. Like Coppola, Penn ended up just letting Brando do what he wanted and hope it worked.

    When the movie debuted, I remember some of the critics being rather harsh with the film--and a few criticized Brando in particular. Now, decades later, I've decided to see some of these later films to make up my own mind. While it's well documented that Brando was odd and difficult on the set, could he still turn out a good performance? Well, while I know it is bound to ruffle a lot of feathers, I will go so far as to day that he was the worst aspect of this film. His acting seemed inconsistent (the accent seemed to come and go) and just plain strange. His behavior when he showed up at the wake seemed whacked out, he had a weird scene with his horse and he also wore a woman's bonnet and dress during one of the scenes late in the film just seemed like a joke. To me, this was all just distracting from the film itself. It's a shame, as the western is a decent 'modern western' (with looser language, grungy costumes and a less glamorous look) by Penn--the same guy who modernized the gangster genre with "Bonnie and Clyde".

    In contrast to Brando, I felt that Jack Nicholson was a major plus to the film. While a 'bad boy' by reputation, here he seemed professional and believable....and a bit likable even though he was indeed a rogue. When he was funny (such as the hold up scene), it made sense. In fact, I wanted more of his in the film and a lot less of Brando. Overall, it's a decent western but one that is frustrating at the same time--not bad but if could have been a lot better.

    By the way, if you do watch the film, it is rather graphic and adult in its sensibilities. You will NOT mistake this for a Roy Rogers or Gene Autry film!
  • Good western set in Montana with the only ever on-screen pairing of Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando. Nicholson was beginning his acting career, and Brando was winding down. Wonderful part played by Harry Dean Stanton. He looks and sounds like an old horse thief.

    Lots of good humor in the dialog.

    Brando plays the strangest hit man ever seen. He is a professional killer who is gay, speaks with a lispy Scottish accent, and does inexplicably odd things. He wears a granny dress in one scene, a Chinese coolie hat in another, but he is deadly from very long range. Brando seemed to enjoy himself in this one. In his last scene he talks to his horse as if she is a coy mistress.

    A young Randy Quaid plays a dopey cowhand very well.

    There was only one part I think was miscast - John Ryan was too New York for a Wild West film.

    Beautiful cinematography. Lots of cowboy action - train robbery, stealing horses, shoot-outs, and wide open spaces.

    Funny scene in a bar where a man is tried for his crimes. It is different in tone from the rest of the movie because it is a parody of the old west played by people from the era who are in on the joke. It stands out because it's not really part of the same movie.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Bonnie & Clyde" director Arthur Penn helmed some classic movies, and he directed two movies with Marlon Brando. The first movie they made together "The Chase" was a long-winded murderous tale with Brando as a sheriff after a fugitive. "The Chase" was coherent, but their second collaboration—which is less of collaboration—"The Missouri Breaks" is a complete mess done on a big budget. The saga about horse rustlers wears out its welcome and what might have been a grand western is reduced to mediocrity by an eccentric performance by Marlon Brando that goes haywire. He dresses in a variety of wardrobe as Lee Clayton, a 'regulator' who is hunting down Tom Logan (Jack Nicholson) and his gang of horse rustlers. The only thing interesting about this mishmash is the idea that the outlaws win. Thomas McGuane's screenplay is like rustled horses stampeding all over the place with Brando improvising his scenes and dialogue. The supporting cast with Randy Quaid, Frederic Forrest, Harry Dean Stanton, and John Ryan is sturdy enough, and the scenery is rugged and thorny. Brando's regulator wields revolvers, rifles, and an object that looks like the plus sign in an arithmetic equation to kill both animals and men. John Williams of "Star Wars" fame wrote the orchestral score before he scored "Star Wars" and it is low-key. "The Missouri Breaks" is an odd, mean-spirited, shoot'em up with little to recommend it aside it being a western for western completists to say that they have watched. The drama is mitigated by the screenplay's incoherence. Jack Nicholson gives a good performance. As for Brando, he doesn't steal the show so much as sabotage it.
  • A gang of horse rustlers take on an ornery rancher causing him to hire a psychotic assassin to terminate his tormentors. Brando was superb as the insane Robert Lee, and Nicholson turned in his usual fine performance as the enigmatic gang leader. Was Robert Lee really a bad man for taking out the thieves, or were the rustlers merely "boys being boys"? Excellent western with maximum excitement as well as several good laughs.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Along with "The Other Side of Midnight," this is one of my very favorite films that the critics somehow found reason to despise. There are at least a dozen scenes in this movie that are fascinating, memorable and stunningly original, causing me to wonder how a mediocrity like Leonard Maltin could give the film a "bomb" rating in his best-selling reference work.

    One of my favorite scenes is the one in which Nicholson has a perfect opportunity to kill his nemesis as he wallows in a bubble bath. Up till that point, Brando has been depicted as a ruthless and fiendish killer. Now, Penn practically fills the screen with the pasty-white flesh of Brando's vulnerable, blubbery back. This comical expanse of flesh visually begs a sucking wound from Nicholson's .45, but he declines to plug Brando then and there, probably thinking he can best him later in a fair fight. He does, and the way in which he finally triumphs over this seemingly indefatigable killing machine -- a "regulator" hired by a bunch of cattlemen to deal with rustlers -- is one of the most chilling moments in all of filmdom. I give it four stars. Check it out!
  • Marlon Brando, gloriously over the top here, disliked the movie industry. Were there any particular bad feelings towards MGM ?

    It seems to be so, since this Studio first of massacred the truly great film THE FUGITIVE KIND, in which Brando shines (and seems to be the fore-bearer of Nick Cage in 'Wild At Heart'), by distributing it as a DVD-release that might very well be the worst around, easily as bad as the Fox Lorber atrocities.

    And now there is the release of this unique film. Celebrating two icons who never played together in any other film (Nicholson and Brando), with a strong supporting cast (Oh yes, Miss Lloyd plays her Jane as unglamorous as possible and achieves a good and lasting impression !!) and superb camera-work.

    That is, if you can see it on this DVD... The image, supposedly in the Aspect Ratio of 1.85 : 1 according to the info on the box, is so horribly cropped we might as well call this Pan & Scan. Furthermore, there has been made no effort to have the film look proper; the footage has been slapped onto the DVD unceremoniously and without any care.

    WHY ??! What did Brando do to MGM to have them hating him so much ??!!

    Or should we be thankful that this studio has taken the trouble of giving us this DVD of a FANTASTIC one-of-a-kind FILM, which has been trashed by 'those who know' for so many decades ? Even if it means that the quality of the DVD is stupendously bad ???

    Dear executives of MGM, please give us your wonderful films in a way it will be a true treat to watch them ?!

  • As others have hinted, this film is beyond most people's idea of merely quirky. In fact, it's slightly unbalanced and in parts borders on insane... yet somehow what emerges is a film that is just about believable, as are the various colourful characters who act it out. The film is great fun, and its two hours go by quickly.

    Being a huge fan of Brando, and an admirer of Nicholson, I end up thinking this film in no way detracts from their illustrious careers and what they've done elsewhere. Having said that, Brando does ham it up in a grand, thoroughly camp style: outlandish costume, inexplicable changes of costume, florid gestures and - as other reviewers have pointed out - weird accents. The accents he uses shift around inconsistently and theatrically (especially the more sustained efforts to sound Irish in his early scenes). But he obviously had fun when making the film. Nicholson's performance is a model of seriousness and sobriety by comparison.

    The cinematography is superb, with great use of light and shade in shooting a wonderful landscape. The action is generally slow-paced, but with a heavy sense of impending menace through most of the film. The score is not among the film's stronger points. Dialogue is mostly fresh and original for a 70s era western, and cliché avoided. It is well acted, despite the quirkiness of the script and screenplay.

    Perhaps a little odd that the critics slated this film so ferociously at the time it was released. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, made just a few years earlier was (rightly) lauded to the skies, precisely for giving originality, humour and a modern twist to the old western format. That film now seems in some ways more dated than The Missouri Breaks. The latter is not as good a film as Sundance, by a distance, but, for any true fan of cinema, well worth giving it a try.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Hey, I like Jack's sick humor in all this. It's hilarious.

    Rustler gang led by Jack Nicholson is stealing cattle owned by John McLiam. McLiam brings in a professional 'regulator' (Brando) to go after them. Of course during this whole thing, Nicholson has an affair with McLiam's daughter (played by Kathleen Lloyd) which helps complicate things.

    There's all kinds of Brando maneuvering going on against Nicholson's gang including Randy Quaid being left to drown in the rapids by Brando; John Ryan getting shot at long range while he's screwing a homesteader's wife; Frederic Forrest getting killed long range while he's sitting in an outhouse taking a dump; and Harry Dean Stanton being burned out of his house in the middle of the night and being stuck in the eye and killed by Brando's X-shaped shiv.

    Brando's being weirdly methodological about the whole thing, sometimes wearing a prairie woman's dress and bonnet while killing off Nicholson's gang, but his accent is also unconvincing. He goes from Irish, to Western to English, so I guess that's to let the audience know he has a big screw loose or something. Now it's up to Jack to hunt down Brando, finally catching up with him while he's asleep and then slitting his throat.

    And there's also good shootout scene at the end where McLaim, who everyone now believes is infirm with a stroke, pulls out a gun while he's sitting in a wheelchair and shoots the unawares Nicholson. Nicholson then shoots back killing McLiam. The film ends with Nicholson (his arm in a sling) and Lloyd parting ways.

    The critics universally hated this film, calling it the worst thing that Brando, Nicholson and Arthur Penn have ever done, but I happened to like it.

    I found the story engaging and gritty, wondering what was going to happen next to Nicholson's gang as each one of them gets killed off. I even managed to ignore the dumb idiosyncrasies that Brando was making, although I think it's a shame he had to resort to using them at this stage of the game.

    Besides, most of these people look like they haven't taken a bath in a long time. Except Brando. (laughs)

    7 out of 10.
  • terkanas27 February 2005
    Maybe a bit disjointed, but I liked it, a lot, actually. Lead males were all great, but like so many westerns The Girl was a let-down. With most of the cast playing it pretty straight Brando doesn't seem over the top at all, it works well and is not too silly at all, reminds me of a eccentric uncle combined with Hannibal Lector, without the, you know.... Otherwise a film you should definitely consider watching, if only to see how Brando, Nicholson, and Harry Dean Stanton do a western. I loved it, Brando stole the show. See it to decide for yourself whether you like the direction Brando takes it. There's nothing like it, and this is not a run-of-the-mill western.
  • With this cast, director and screenwriter audience's expectations were so disappointed in '76. It really was a wtf kinda moment. This was hyped in Rolling Stone and other pop mags of the day. As a young man I thought I must have missed something. As an old man rewatching I report that there's little to miss. With 'Heavens Gate' 4 years later the 2 films almost killed Westerns forever. Story is baffling, some talent is visible but no recc from me.
  • My initial take on this film, given the period it was made, was to wonder who was taking what drugs and how often; Nicholson had recently finished the brilliant Chinatown, Brando had Last Tango In Paris under his belt, and director Penn, the epic Little Big Man; they all got together for this--and it's a haphazard mess; each time the plot starts to evolve in some meaningful way, it comes to a halt for Brando's extravagant lisping Irishman, a self-indulgent performance that poor Arthur Penn had to deal with, or for the romance Nicholson kindles with the magnetic Kathleen Lloyd--and whatever happened to her? I was anxious to finally see the film excoriated by most critics after all these years, and didn't exactly hate it, and did find that Nicholson gives one of his least mannered performances, subdued and believable, perhaps in reaction to the Brando silliness--but given the talent, several folks seemed to have their heads elsewhere. It is indeed an alternate Western, but unlike the moving Monte Walsh or Open Range, or McCabe And Mrs. Miller, it's largely attitudinal in nature, which may be enough for some.
  • "The Missouri Breaks" is an interesting, decidedly offbeat Western drama notable for its teaming of two big stars. Jack Nicholson is Tom Logan, the leader of a group of rustlers. They end up waging war with the rancher (John McLiam, "First Blood") who had one of their friends hanged. In so doing, they also wage war with the weirdo regulator (Marlon Brando) hired by the rancher. The regulator, otherwise known as Lee Clayton, is a free spirit with different personas for different occasions - not to mention different accents.

    Overall, this film does have its ups and downs, as does the script by Thomas McGuane ("Rancho Deluxe", "92 in the Shade"). While director Arthur Penn had certainly done better ("Bonnie & Clyde" nine years previous), this is not a particular black mark on his resume, in this viewers' humble opinion. The action scenes are well done, with one standout sequence involving the gang stealing a mass amount of horses from the Royal Canadian Mounties! The scenery is beautiful, John Williams supplies a decent soundtrack, and the films' sense of humour does help it through some slow spots. There's also a romance developing between Tom and the ranchers' attractive daughter (Kathleen Lloyd ("The Car"), in an endearing film debut). This romance is somewhat unique for a Western in that she is the one who keeps initiating liaisons.

    The most enjoyable element about "The Missouri Breaks" is its cast: Randy Quaid ("The Last Detail"), Frederic Forrest ("The Conversation"), Harry Dean Stanton ("Repo Man"), as the wise old Calvin, John P. Ryan ("It's Alive"), Sam Gilman ("Gator Bait"), Hunter von Leer ("Halloween II" '81), Richard Bradford ("The Untouchables"), Steve Franken ("The Party"), Luana Anders ("Easy Rider"), etc. Stanton is a standout, although Brando fans will enjoy his flamboyant, eccentric performance. Clayton obviously enjoys what he does, and Brando obviously enjoyed playing this character. Nicholson delivers a comparatively even-keeled portrayal.

    The conclusion manages to be both amusing and not completely satisfying. The viewer will likely wish there were more of a big confrontation / showdown between the two anti-heroes at the core of the story.

    But don't let the more scathing reviews dissuade you from checking out a fairly entertaining film with more of a revisionist take on the genre than a traditional one.

    Six out of 10.
  • When I first viewed this film I was completely captivated by the great acting of both Jack Nicholson,"The Last Tycoon",'76 and Marlon Brando, "Sayonara",'57. I was completely shocked by the way this picture ended and I always remembered the ending and forgot the entire story. The entire picture starts off weird, where you are seeing a man swinging from a rope around his neck and dying quite slowly. However, this unfortunate guy stole a horse and it was a major offense in the State of Missouri and the story revolves around a gang lead by Jack Nicholson who is burning out from trying to steal horses for a living and decides to send some of his gang into Canada for some fresh horses. Kathleen Floyd(Jane Braxton),"The Car",'77, who plays a very sexy role and is bold enough to ask Jack Nicholson if he wants sexual intercourse on their second date. Marlon Brando plays the role of a Hawk, who searches out horse thieves and uses every horrible way in order to torture them with a horrible evil deed. I believe Brando put his heart and soul completely into playing this role and it is truly a masterpiece which I will never forget. He is and always will be one of our great Film Actors of all TIME!
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