Pro tennis provides many classic sports moments, but the few tennis-oriented movies (PLAYERS, SPRING FEVER, RACQUET) were badly strung sex 'n' jocks cliches. Real-life net pro Vincent Van Patten, actor son of longtime screen performer Dick Van Patten, decided it was time to do the BULL
DURHAM of the courts, based on his own impressions of the game. For seven years he worked on THE BREAK, writing, producing, and starring in the filmed-in-Florida feature. But this is a weak serve.
Van Patten portrays washed-up former US Open superstar Nick Irons. Crushed with gambling debts, Irons accepts a deal from wealthy bookie Robbins (Martin Sheen) to coach his teen son Joel (Ben Jorgenson) as the gangling youth tries to qualify on a satellite tennis circuit. Nice touch: Robbins
doesn't want Joel to triumph, but rather thinks the example of sullen, has-been Irons will cure the kid of his ambitions. Irons does treat Joel scornfully, even when he wins a few. But on tour Irons sheepishly reunites with old friends, foes, and sex-crazed tennis groupies; the latter group
encompasses betrayed girlfriend Jennifer (Rae Dawn Chong), who delivers The Big Speech (in its entirety: "You used to be a guy who stood for something. You cared. But look at you. It's such a waste."). Thus admonished, Irons mentors Joel seriously--cue the standard KARATE KID montage of grueling
practice rituals. Events predictably lead to Joel's showdown with a tennis bully coached by Irons's old enemy (Gerrit Graham in a thankless role), which is refereed by a pedophile official blackmailed into ruling against Joel. Nonetheless, the underdog scores the game point (sure enough, in slow
motion), and Irons's epilogue narration boasts how he coached Joel all the way to the US Open--where the kid acquired lots of sex-crazed tennis groupies. Thrill of victory indeed.
If this is the best a tennis insider can do, perhaps it's time to default. Van Patten goes through the melodramatics with the assurance and fluidity that make one wish he had a better writer. Newcomer Jorgensen is convincingly dorky as the enthusiastic hacker, but director Lee H. Katzin displays
little faith in the actors, resorting to hokey voice-overs during matches so the viewer knows what everyone down to the peanut vendor is thinking. Real-life announcers Fred Stolle and Cliff Drysdale play themselves in comic fashion, possibly under the misconception that they're in a MAJOR LEAGUE
sequel. Tennis ace Vitas Gerulaitas also cameos. In 1995, Gerulitas, who battled drug and alcohol addiction following his tournament days, was found dead, reportedly due to carbon monoxide leak from an air conditioner. End credits eulogize the fallen athlete as "A great champion and a great
friend," but it's a reminder of how trite THE BREAK seems compared with actual events. After a regional theatrical release, the feature was lobbed onto home video. (Sexual situations, profanity, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Pro tennis provides many classic sports moments, but the few tennis-oriented movies (PLAYERS, SPRING FEVER, RACQUET) were badly strung sex 'n' jocks cliches. Real-life net pro Vincent Van Patten, actor son of longtime screen performer Dick Van Patten, deci… (more)