Breakdown (1997) – Review

4 Stars

Breakdown is one of the 1990’s most taut, well-crafted thrillers. It stars Kurt Russell, who enjoyed a bit of a popular resurgence from 1995-1998, playing an everyman whom we can relate to. This excellent film was produced for half the money typically spent on movies of a similar ilk, and the low-budget vibe serves the picture well. Director Jonathan Mostow works the material for all it’s worth, he’s done a masterful job in ratcheting up tension, anger, and frustration sometimes within the same scene.

Jeff Taylor (Kurt Russell) and his wife Amy (Kathleen Quinlan) are driving across country to start a new life in California when their car’s engine dies on a remote highway. Amy accepts a ride with a helpful trucker (J.T. Walsh) while Jeff waits with their broken-down car. But when Jeff shows up at the agreed upon rendezvous point, he finds his wife’s not there. The locals are quiet: the police are incompetent. With no one to turn to, Jeff battles his worst fears and begins a desperate, danger-filled search to his wife back.

This is a slight but brilliantly executed film that never makes a misstep in telling its nightmarish tale. The gore is toned down but that doesn’t mean this is an easy watch. Breakdown is the kind of mid-budget genre picture that used to sneak out of the well-oiled studio machine, it’s an all but lost style of filmmaking that is still effective today. It’s a shame that Mostow didn’t get to do more work on a theatrical level after the disastrous Bruce Willis vehicle The Surrogates.

Director: Jonathan Mostow
Stars: Kurt Russell, J.T. Walsh, Kathleen Quinlan

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