Reviewed by: Brian Nigro
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