"Tell me," says Lorna to her partner in crime, Tiny, as the two tired, drenched women sit on the sofa in the middle of their murder scene, "Does this blood make me look fat?"
Lorna (Gina Gershon) has accidentally shot her lying sack of a spouse, Dale (Val Kilmer), and Tiny (Kelli Giddish) cut the corpse up with a carving knife to help discard the evidence. But there's even more important evidence of the kind the ladies do not want to do away with — and that's the $100,000 cash that Dale robbed at gunpoint from the local savings & loan.
Taking place in Clark County, Texas, and pretty much all within the confines of a cramped and tacky little trailer, this crime thriller of carnage contains many of the hallmarks of most of the straight-to-disk horror films I see — limited locations, a victim taped to a chair, clueless cops, exposition in abundance, and gore galore. It should be just as devastatingly dull as one might expect, having seen this scenario so many, many times. However, within these limited means, talent, wit, and spark shine through, easily sustaining the running time.
Gershon is always a pleasure to watch, especially when she's cast as scheming white trash (from a seamy 90s fave of mine This World Then The Fireworks, and of course as the larcenous lesbo in Bound, to this year's virtuoso Killer Joe). Val Kilmer is hit and miss these doughy days, but here he's perfectly placed and deftly directed. Ray Liotta, as a lawman with an inkling but no proof, is solid, as are the cast of other kooky characters who parade in and out of the remote homestead (nobody hears them driving up the rocky dirt road? It just one of the many questions I was willing to leave unanswered as I enjoyed the show). I don't recall ever having seen Giddish's work before, but she is fantastic in Breathless. (That's another unanswered question — why call this movie Breathless? Not only is it a well-tread title, it doesn't describe the contents within the DVD box at all. Yes, a couple of people die and are therefore Breathless, but it's just not a good name for this particular movie.)
Far more gruesome, and definitely packing more surprise punches than your average, everyday thriller, it's the dialogue that's the real star of Breathless. Director Jesse Baget and co-writer Stefania Moscato did a fantastic job of putting the archest of words into their actors' mouths, and making it work by setting the scene in an almost surreal manner. Bill Otto's cinematography, using smart, intricate composition and good use of color helps offset the puddles, rivulets and pools of blood. (Lorna's red dress is nice touch, too.)
Breathless probably isn't the kind of movie you'll want to see more than once — it's deceptively simple — but it's definitely worth a look.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson