By Mark Ramsey | 2000/11/25

According to the opening title of Unbreakable, “the average comic book collector spends one full year of his life reading comics.”

And the other eighty or so watching Star Trek.

Some folks, it seems, never outgrow a taste for garishly-tinted, body-hugging undies, heroically evil-bashing blue hair, and Dr. Who action figure collectibles. You can always spot the comic book buffs – they’re the ones who ask you a question and look at the bubble-quote over your head for a reply.


I can’t say whether copious quantities of cannabis had anything to do with this screenplay or not, but I’ll wager writer/director M. Night Shyamalan never has to worry about a bad case of glaucoma! Hey Night, I see Dead-Head people!

At the very least, I fear Night has been smoking too many Philly cheesesteaks, because the whiz is dribbling out of his mouth and onto the page in all its cheesiness.

Without The Sixth Sense under his enormously and deservedly high-grossing belt Unbreakable would be both unthinkable and unmakeable. As it is, it’s not unwatchable but very nearly untakeable. In the long run, I suspect, this film will prove forgettable, although a more excruciatingly well-made forgettable picture you’re not likely to see.

Unbreakable is a cross between The Sixth Sense and Superfriends. Bruce Willis begins the flick in the passenger compartment of a train because, presumably, Wonder Woman’s invisible plane was in its invisible hanger being serviced by invisible technicians and catered with obscenely mediocre invisible food.

As the train rumbles to its impending destruction, Bruce hits on a sports agent babe with a sexy tree branch tattoo snaking up her belly. Bruce, who has traced the roots of many such branches between sets at Planet Hollywood, slips off his wedding band and turns on the smarmy charm until she skeedaddles to a safe distance. Unfortunately the only safe distance is off the tracks altogether, because everybody dies except Bruce who – much to Demi Moore’s chagrin – emerges without a scratch.


Bruce, you see, is the unbreakable one – he never gets sick or injured. Although he does get a zit on his left cheek, proving that blemishes have a super-power all their own.

Enter Sam Jackson, who breaks bones like you and I break for lunch. Sam’s got a congenital disease which makes his bones as delicate as a hanging chad and, evidently, molds his head in the shape of Gumby! What disease is this, Osteogenesis Gumbarifica? Careful! Squeeze him too hard and he goes all Clokey-Pokey-brokey.

Sam gets about in a wheelchair and wears this purple-bronze leather coat, black gloves, and these groovy shades. He looks like the Artist formerly known as a cross between R. Kelly and Dr. Strangelove. He’s either warming up for evil or a chorus of Purple Rain – which in some circles is the same thing.

Sam is the proprietor of a comic book art gallery where Van Gogh and Rembrandt are replaced by Archie and Jughead. “I believe comics are a form of history,” says Sam. “Then again, I also believe Nessie, Bigfoot, and El Chupacabra are my close personal friends – why won’t they return my calls, even after 6 or on weekends?”

By the way, Night’s need for a cameo in all his films is rather distracting (In Sixth he was a doctor, here he’s a drug peddler – note the common connection to controlled substances!). I know Hitchcock did cameos, but Hitch was an extra – he never had dialogue. Then again, none of Hitch’s movies racked up 600 million dollars worldwide, now did they?!

I think The Sixth Sense was so effective in part because of the near believability of the premise and the raw shock and satisfaction of the twist ending. Unfortunately, Unbreakable is unbelievable – it eye-rolls over the tippy-top of top.

But I’ll be honest: I can’t wait for Night’s next day!

Photos Copyright ©2000 Touchstone Pictures


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