Watched Jul 14, 2012
Steve Grzesiak’s review:
Breakheart Pass is a pretty difficult film to categorise. It's probably best described as a western mystery adventure, and it's certainly one of the more offbeat films of Charles Bronson's career, a career at the point of the release of this film that had more or less moved wholesale into the crime thrillers that he became best known for.
So moving back into a western must have been regarded as a surprise in some quarters back in 1975, but as I've already mentioned this is not your average western - and as difficult as it is to categorise, it's also quite difficult to succinctly pin down its story. Essentially it's the story of a small US Army unit that is travelling, with medical supplies, to a fort that is reported to be in the grip of diphtheria. But when people start disappearing and turning up dead, the finger is pointed at Bronson's wanted man and more twists start occurring.
Really, that description doesn't come close to describing many of the things going on here. It really is a surprisingly intricately plotted film courtesy of the pen of Alistair MacLean that ends up being far more than just a train-based mystery thriller as well. In fact, the only thing that happens in the film that you would expect to happen is the obligatory train-top fight - but even during that Bronson pulls out, and I'm not joking, a drop-kick that Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat would have been proud of in his prime.
It really is a bit of a delight, this film. Bronson is, well, Bronson. He had hit on a winning formula years before this film was made for his roles and he doesn't deviate much from his gruff tough guy mode here. The support cast is superb, however, with Charles Durning and Ben Johnson making recognisably excellent villainous turns, and, of course, Jill Ireland also pops in. But it's the underrated Ed Lauter who probably comes out of the film best of all.
It packs in a lot to its 90 minutes running time, but it's an entertaining and even thoughtful little film that only really lets itself down with its surely by 1975 outmoded whooping Injun portrayal. A very pleasant surprise, though,