Forgotten Friday Flick – “Breaking In” (Burt Reynolds Tribute Edition)

As everyone knows the iconic actor/director Burt Reynolds passed yesterday, but fortunately he left behind an immense body of work that was unparalleled in terms of diversity and longevity. Having created so many cool characters, memorable movies and all with joyful everyman quality, Reynolds was one of the last of the Hollywood movie stars.  So when I found myself scouring his various cinematic wares to select five of the best pieces of work from the man known for his legendary smirk and swagger, it became almost impossible to pick just a handful of films that he should be remembered for.  His dramatic turn in Deliverance, his joy in comedies like The Cannonball Run, Smokey And The Bandit and Stroker Ace (my guilty pleasure!), his action prowess in 80’s fare like Stick, Heat, Malone and Rent-A-Cop and of course his Academy Award nominated role as charismatic pornographer Jack Horner in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, prove that Reynolds was far from a one hit wonder.  So in tribute to one of my favorite actors of all time I’m putting up some movie remembrance in the form of a lesser known Reynolds gem the only way I know how – welcome to…Forgotten Friday Flick.  Today we delve into the recesses of Reynolds movie lore to dissect a 1989 outing that has plenty of beautiful Burt bravado.  It’s the classic tale of an elder criminal who befriends a younger counterpart and the things they equally learn from each other along the way.  Ready for your lesson in safe cracking 101?  Time to get….Breaking In!

Ernie Mullins is a professional thief specializing in safe cracking.  He’s exacting, careful and utterly observant of his surroundings at all times.  By contrast young Mike Lafebb is an amateur thief with very little discipline.  He’s loud, brash, abrasive and unfocused in the art of skilled larceny.  So when the two serendipitously meet burglarizing the same house it sets in motion an apprenticeship and friendship between two thieves with some surprising results.

The basic story structure of Breaking In isn’t exactly original, with the idea of a mature older gent taking on a youthful protégé a common cinematic theme, but it’s the players involved here that make this one a standout.  Helmed by Englishman Bill Forsyth, the man behind such flicks as Local Hero and equally hidden gem Comfort and Joy, the filmmaker brings his typical and wonderful unrushed dramedy vibe to the work here – a surprising but totally wonderful choice for a film about the art of getting out quick.  It’s also a quality that very much lends itself to the characters within the film and allows the two leads to appropriately shine.  As the green guy in the story scenario, Casey Siemaszko plays the perfect tenderfoot.  Matching the naivety he brought to the character of Jerry Mitchell in Three O’Clock High with arrogant elements of Roger Despard in Secret Admirer (blast from the past kids!), Siemaszko gives just the right amount of youthful abandon (aka piss and vinegar!) to keep things interesting.

Of course it’s the elder statesman that provides the film foundation of the story and Burt Reynolds’ Ernie Mullins is the perfect character counterpoint.  Playing a secretive man with a ton of mysterious back baggage and a whole lot of criminal insight, Reynolds turns in a pitch perfect performance that seals the deal. (Though credit must also be given to the witty prose ala early screenwriter John Sales!)

Told with a colorful but carefully skilled filmmaking hand, Breaking In may not be the flashiest of Reynolds’ films.  It’s basic, familiar and isn’t interested in simple surface stuff.  But there’s a quiet cool quality within both the characters and the film speaks volumes and the seeming ease of Reynolds’ layered work in this one should not be dismissed.  An utterly memorable movie with a great work by all, Breaking In is worth the stretch.


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

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