DVD Review - American Breakdown

Originally titled, Stories USA, this film was shot about five years ago. It's a collection of six short films, all different tones and styles. Two of the six, short films are really amusing. One is really interesting from a cinematic standpoint. One makes no sense. One seems unfinished and one is just awful.

Starting with the worst, "L.A. Knights" is chronologically the penultimate, short film in the group. It stars Paris Hilton and is simply unwatchable. Hilton should never be asked to act again. The production value for it was also surprisingly rough.

"Life Makes Sense If You're Famous" feels like the first act to a full film but never like anything approaching complete. Obviously, in a short film, you often don't have time to tell a full story, but it is possible to have a three-act structure even in brief. This feels like it's only one or two acts. It features appearances from Paul Walker and Scott Caan. They're nothing more than cameos though.

"Club Soda" is the first, short film and it makes no sense. It introduces a very good young actor named Stephen R. McQueen (Everwood and The Vampire Diaries) who I think has a lot of potential, but this movie is all over the place. A kid gets struck by lightning inside a bar. There are apparitions that come out of nowhere or photos apparently. Gandolfini plays an apparition, but I'm not sure why. It just feels pointless.

"Member" stars Josh Hartnett in a very stylistic, very manic drive. It's like Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver meets any early Spike Lee movie put inside a MTV video blender. It's an insane 15 minutes of Hartnett close-ups behind the wheel, ranting psychotically.

"Street of Pain" is the second, short film. It stars Steve Carell and it's hilarious. Carell engages in a dodgeball battle with three men, including Ian Gomez (Cougar Town) and Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family). The three men are bullies from Carell's past. There's no dialogue. It's just laugh-out-loud, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix-like action sequences.

"The Little Things" is the last and certainly not least of the short films. It stars Alisen Down as Claire, an office worker whose job is dreary, monotonous and depressing. She's lonely and suicidal, but things change when she meets Simon, played by Ioan Gruffudd. It's a very simple concept but executed very nicely.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language, drug use, brief nudity and sexual content.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins.


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