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That other gritty 1989 movie shot in Portland

Burt Reynolds shot a heist film in Portland in 1989.

I remember seeing a poster or an ad that featured Burt Reynolds lounging in his bachelor pad at the Portland Plaza building from a movie still a few years back and then forgot about it.

Wait, Burt Reynolds shot a film in Portland? Indeed he did. It’s called “Breaking In.” I’m ashamed I’ve never heard of it. (Or ammmmm I?)

This 1989 American crime comedy film was directed by Bill Forsyth, written by John Sayles (!?!!), and stars Burt Reynolds, Casey Siemaszko, and Lorraine Toussaint. The film is about professional small-time criminals.

Their big heist in the film? Oaks Amusement Park. Yep. Big-time money to be had at the park. In fact, there’s a scene where Reynolds and Siemaszko are scoping the place out and watching security guards load BAGS of money from the day’s profits. (Who knew?) This also means there’s lots of great shots of the park.

Anyhow, the film is OK. Not great, moderately watchable. Of course, I loved it for all of the Portland scenes and I’ve screen capped a couple (mostly from Oaks Park – which is one of my personal favorite places in Portland).











Watch the film here:

14 replies on “That other gritty 1989 movie shot in Portland”

I remember “Breaking In” mainly because a friend of mine, Arlene Kelly (wife of Neil Kelly of Kelly Construction, Inc.) looked down the hall from their Portland Plaza condo to see what all the commotion was about, while filming was going on. They left her in the movie.

My dad welded those veggies onto Cornos as a young man. It was sad for us & my father to see it fall in 2006. My dad passed in 2013. Mimi

Hey Charlie…when you’re town’s facade has changed dramatically it’s fun to watch the old facade, regardless of how many other fun things there are to do.

I still think this is Burt Reynold’s best movie. It’s not as good as Forsyth’s Local Hero, more comparable to his Scottish local color film Comfort and Joy. It captures 1989 Portland in a wry snapshot by an outsider.

The film hits you like the realization that Beck’s Loser was the last major hit song to be intially released in a vinyl format rather than CD. While the production has a ’70’s feel, it was a most fitting end to a decade that was like a 1920’s revival overlying an unstoppable urban decay. Surely, Portland was a perfect setting as you would have had a hard time finding such surviving locations in other west coast cities. The pharmacy locale in Drugstore Cowboy was as close to perfect for it’s era as you could get…and near impossible to re-create today. Likewise, Oaks Park brought back a look of what was once commonplace, but had long vanished elsewhere. It’s doubtful that a movie such as Breaking In could be filmed anywhere in Oregon today without something too modern slipping in to the views. (It’s even better if you watch it the way we used to access them, as an unexpected and delightful TV re-run that pops up.) Four stars (do teachers still have those shiny stickers anymore) just for throwing a hammer in the Hollywood machine.

One of my personal favorites. People from out of the area don’t even know that Oaks Park exists.I refer them to this film sometimes because unlike I Tonya this one captures the real place at that time.

At the opening scene a bi-plane lands in a harbor with a string of white tents. Does anyone know what that tent structure is. Is it still there ? It looks a little like the tents at the Denver airport, so maybe same developer ?

One of my friends father played one of the homeless guys living in the half-way house that I believe had a safe in it that they break in to. Her father was born here in Portland, wrote for the Oregon Journal and later became a public defender with Multnomah County. He was watching some of the filming and one of the crew asked him if he wanted to be in the film as an extra. He was told to go home and come back wearing something old and worn (which is pretty much they way he always dressed). He died 2 years ago in his 90’s and was sharp right up to the end. I should watch the movie again for plenty of reasons but it would also be nice to see him again.

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