As fans, when we find out (from investigative news stories or satirical films) that Hollywood is superficial, unglamorous, and all about money, we become discouraged. When we realize that the movie-making magic is a mask, we’re disheartened but we can still go about our lives. How do aspiring actors and filmmakers react? They can’t just return to their routines. In an environment where survival-of-the-fittest is the only way to succeed, how long does it take for a person to lose hope? When does the faith disintegrate? These questions are central to the story of “Break a Leg,” (Monika Mitchell), a film about what desperation can do to one’s conscience.
“Break a Leg” follows Max Matteo (John Cassini), an actor who is still waiting for his big break. Regardless of whether or not he’s right for a part, he still wants the opportunity to audition. As the first scene of the film reveals, Max puts his heart into every reading. Before the narrative can contextualize the words he says before a mirror in a bathroom, you start to think that he’s either autistic or has Tourette’s syndrome. Shortly thereafter you discover that Max was just getting into character. The guy has talent. Unfortunately, the stress of striving to land that career-launching role is too much for Max to handle. To exacerbate things, he has an angry streak. When Max is inconvenienced or annoyed by incompetent drivers or strangers, he fantasizes about inflicting damage to their property or their persons. As his ego diminishes and insecurity increases, life imitates imagination, and Max begins eliminating the competition.
“Break a Leg” places you in a peculiar moral position because there’s a part of you that wouldn’t be upset if Max gets away with murder. He’s a Byronic hero. He’s not completely good, but because you’ve spent time getting to know his intentions, his strengths and his weaknesses, you’d like to see him “free” for as long as possible. Furthermore, most actors in his situation would quickly dump the old agent for a new one, but Max refuses to abandon his agent Ira Goldstein (Barry Primus). Although Max is not the purest apple in the barrel, he’s not rotten either.
But then you get acquainted with the detectives trying to solve the murder of Max’s first victim, EJ Englewood (Danny Nucci). Detective Sanchez (Rene Rivera) and Detective Coyle (J.J. Johnston) are incredibly funny and they remind you that it’s not okay to cause the death of an actor who got a part that should’ve gone to you. Max may have experienced a turn in his acting career, but the negative consequences (difficulty sleeping) of his actions far outweigh the positive ones. EJ is more famous in death than in life. Michael Lange (Eric Roberts) survived Max’s attack and has turned a new leaf. The irony.