The Missouri Breaks (1976)

Arthur Penn directs Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando and Kathleen Lloyd in this revisionist western where a group of rustlers are hunted by an eccentric regulator.

Derided on release, and infamous for Brando and Nicholson not getting along on set, you can see the issues with The Missouri Breaks. It lurches between comedy, romance, art film and actioner. Brando is unhinged, strangely accented, attired and behaved. You can tell his scenes are editing room salvage jobs from various improvised takes. He was legendary in his trademark wiping his arse with a script and derailing narratives by this point in his career. It is also obvious from the few scenes where he and Nicholson interact that it is highly likely they never stood in front of the camera together after the first week. Doesn’t kill the project though! Nicholson’s anti-chemistry with his co-star is palpable and appropriate. Brando’s shenanigans are memorable and mix-up otherwise solid bits of horse stealing and gingham clad seduction. A few decades on, without reputation, and you get a satisfying alternative cowboy flick with a hard edge, a soft heart and a quirky villain. And Harry Dean Stanton.


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