With a dark sense of humour and a blood lust akin to the Kill Bill films, Breathless shows us how the promise of money can change the lives of seemingly ordinary people.
Breathless opens with a razor-sharp view of red everywhere. From bright red nail polish, to lipstick and slabs of raw meat, everything is saturated in red. Soothing yet spine-tingling jazz-style music walks us through the early 80s kitchen of Lorna (Gina Gershon) and Dale (Val Kilmer). Lorna fidgets anxiously while she makes an urgent phone call, asking her best friend Tiny (Kelli Giddish) to come right away. When Lorna hangs up the phone and walks into the kitchen, we see Dale unconscious on the floor.
Pretty yet dim-witted friend Tiny arrives shortly after their phone conversation, and Lorna tells us that her husband Dale has committed a robbery and made off with $100,000 that he had no intention of sharing with Lorna. The women decide he’s undeserving and they want to use the money to give themselves a new life.
Taking on a pseudo-Thelma and Louise sort of role, Lorna and Tiny restrain and question Dale about the robbery. Dale proves he is as good at lying as he is at planning, making Lorna so upset that she threatens Dale with his own gun. When the gun accidentally goes off, Lorna and Tiny must find a way to hide Dale’s dead body in the house, find the money and get out of their small town before anyone discovers their crimes.
A grotesque yet witty approach to body dismemberment and disposal ensues, thanks to the help of standard 1980s kitchen appliances and cleaning products. Each time the friends feel they are getting a step ahead of the game, they find themselves covered in more blood and sinking deeper into their problems. Turning the house upside down yields no money and no clues as to where the money could be hidden.
When the town’s Sheriff Cooley (Ray Liotta) shows up to question Dale, Lorna keeps him at the doorstep and manages to keep her cool, while bits of Dale’s body and blood soak the carpets, painting the walls and dirty kitchen appliances that are just feet away from their conversation. Eventually the Sheriff leaves, promising to return with a search warrant.
As the women continue to work through the mess of the house (and Dale) while suffering moments of wavering faith in their plans, Private Investigator Maurice Doucette (Wayne Duvall) breaks into the home and interrogates the two friends. Tension mounts as we see the story focalised through Lorna and Tiny’s eyes, giving us insight into the character’s reactions to one another. As the blood and confessions continue to flow, we find that Dale may not have been the only one with blood on his hands.
Breathless gives us a brutal look at what lust, motivation and money will inspire in the most ordinary of people. We find that things can appear perfectly normal from the outside, but that it only takes a slight provocation to shed light on a person’s true motives.