Breakdown (DVD, 2009)

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The Lean-n-Mean Breakdown on "Breakdown"

Dec 1, 2002 (Updated Dec 2, 2002)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Performances by Russell, Quinlan, Walsh; story and direction by Mostow; paranoid, suspenseful atmosphere

Cons:Areas of trite dialogue; performance by Brinkley

The Bottom Line: In exactly 658 words, learn why "Breakdown" is a must-see for any suspense genre buff.


"You left the toilet seat up again..."

In many marriages, a wife who attempts to rid her husband of his careless actions has often said this statement. In 1997's "Breakdown", yuppie Jeff Taylor (Kurt Russell) gets into more trouble than he could've ever imagined for his habit of "leaving things up".

As they switch jobs and make a move to San Diego to start a new life, Jeff and his wife, Amy (Oscar nominee Kathleen Quinlan), experience a mechanical breakdown on a deserted road in a Southwestern state. To make matters worse, Jeff was previously harassed by rural redneck Earl (M.C. Gainey) at a gas station after they nearly collided with each other on the road. Now, Earl has come back to threaten them some more.

Their only saving grace becomes Red (J.T. Walsh), a kindly trucker who stops and offers them a ride to Belle's, a diner only miles away. Amy accepts, but Jeff, who fears for their car, stays behind.

Hours pass, and Amy hasn't returned. While snooping around under the hood, Jeff discovers that some engine wires have come loose. He reconnects them, starts the car, and heads off to Belle's. When he arrives there, no sign of Amy.

Later, Jeff runs into Red on the road. This time, Red pleads ignorance, claiming he's never seen Jeff before, and that he doesn't know who Amy is. Jeff panics, which leads him to the police, which then leads him back to Belle's. Still no sign of Amy. The more Jeff searches for her, the more red herrings he comes across, the more dead ends he inevitably hits.

As a result, Jeff takes matters into his own hands, which eventually thrusts him into the dangerous claws of Red, Earl, and their partners-in-crime, Billy (Jack Noseworthy), and Al (Ritch Brinkley). It turns out these four goons are kidnappers who prey on rich folk traveling through the desert. It also becomes clear that Earl was the perpetrator who caused the Taylors' breakdown by messing with the engine wires after Jeff left his car hood up during a maintenance check back at the gas station.

The trouble is, the kidnappers want money, something that Jeff unfortunately lacks. But since the criminals have been convinced, by a quick-thinking Amy, that the Taylors are wealthy, Jeff has no choice but to play along, all to spare the lives of he and his missing wife.

But this time, the kidnappers have targeted the wrong couple. For the longer they keep Amy from Jeff, the quicker Jeff transforms from a wimpy city slicker into a raging, pulsating force to be reckoned with, which turns this criminal plot into a battle to the death.

Jonathan Mostow, who directed and wrote the film, along with pen pal Sam Montgomery, has woven one of the most terrifying thrillers in recent history. Though sections of the dialogue feel spoon-fed, the storytelling is viciously compelling. What makes it so frightening is the simplicity in which it's told. As the story moves along, and as the red herrings are swept aside, we discover we're dealing with nothing more than four sick people who possess an even sicker greed, which takes us to a hair-raising climax that will make you tremble with fear, as well as cheer in anxious exhilaration.

In a nutshell, this is Russell's best performance ever. Almost every moment we experience with Jeff is vicariously believable. Quinlan is top-notch as Amy. Though we see very little of her, she firmly convinces us of the terror of Amy's circumstance. Walsh couldn't be better as the cool and calculated Red. The only odd player out in this film is Brinkley, who is just as hateful for his antagonistic character as he is for his bad acting. Nevertheless, his degenerative talent is not enough to dissipate the impact of this horrifying creation.

If you're a sucker for suspense and haven't seen this film, get "Breakdown". It is certainly a must-see.

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**This review has been brought to you by user sleeper54's "Lean-n-Mean" Write-off. For more information on rules & regulations, please go to (http://www.epinions.com/content_2977669252)


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