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Movie Review

Breakdown

Reviewed by: Brian Nigro
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
17 to Adult
Genre:
Action/Adventure
Length:
96 min.
R

Starring: Kurt Russell, Kathleen Quinlan, J.T. Walsh, M.C. Gainey, Jack Noseworthy / Director: Jonathan Mostow / Released by: Paramount

“What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?”—Matthew 18:12-13

In “Breakdown”, Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan star as Jeff and Amy Taylor, a married couple whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere en route to San Diego. Quinlan vanishes without a trace after taking a ride from a trucker (J.T. Walsh)—the plan was to call for help from a diner up the road, while Russell waited with the car. That’s not what happens. Russell grows worried, then desperate in his search for his missing wife, as he eventually takes the law into his own hands.

Russell’s search leads him into a trap set up by some locals out for money and vengeance. The film’s “R” rating is due in large part to the violent temperament and limited vocabulary of the gun-toting rancher Earl (M.C. Gainey). The most threatening scenes, though, involve the trucker’s high-speed and aggressive pursuit of Russell.

“Breakdown” takes its cue from an obscure Danish film called “The Vanishing” (not to be confused with its dreadful American remake). Most everything else is rooted in the post-“Deliverance” school of suburban middle-class anxiety, movies like Steve Speilberg’s “Duel” and, more recently, “The River Wild”. First-time director Jonathan Mostow knows his movies, and it shows—two solid hours of action and suspense that diverts your attention from all the plot holes.

This movie clearly exploits the notion of a Good Samaritan—after seeing this movie, how many travelers will hesitate accepting help from the kindness of a stranger? On the other hand, there’s a lesson to be learned from the mental breakdown of Kurt Russell’s character. When faced with adversity, with desperation and fear, how often do we place faith in God that the situation will be resolved? God will never abandon His children.

“Breakdown” is rated R for numerous instances of profanity, constant menace and violence (including a child threatening Russell with a rifle), and highway terror. Again, I’m appalled at how many parents I’ve seen drag their kids—babies, toddlers!—into the theatre. No, this is not a kid’s movie.

Year of Release—1997

Viewer Comments
…a good and suspenseful movie. My problem was the scene with the kid pointing the gun at Kurt Russell. Is this what we’ve come to now… to ooh and aah at children with guns pointed and ready to shoot on screen? I hope not! Leave the gunfights to adults. Keep the kids out of it!
—Chris Utley, age 24
Aside from all the vulgarities and vindictive nature, this is a pretty suspenseful movie. Kurt Russell only wanted his wife back without any fatalities, but the bad guys had to ask for it. Oh yeah. That was another bad thing about it. I “clouded” my testimony with my unsaved brother because I applauded the bad guys' deaths. But aren’t we supposed to “love our wives as our own bodies.” (Eph. 5:28-29)? I guess we are supposed to protect our wives, even if it involves death…
—Miller Nguyen, age 22