After a break-in at their house, a couple gets help from one of the cops that answered their call. He helps them install the security system, and begins dropping by on short notice and ... See full summary »
Jeff and Amy Taylor are moving to California and must drive across the country. When they find themselves stranded in the middle of a desert with hardly anyone or anything around, their trip comes to a sudden halt. Amy had taken a ride with a friendly trucker to a small diner to call for help, but after a long time, Jeff becomes worried. He finds that no one in the diner has seen or heard from his wife. When he finds the trucker who gave Amy the ride, the trucker swears he has never seen her. Now Jeff must attempt to find his wife, who has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. But who can he trust?Written by
[Jeff forces Red and his family to get into the cellar]
You better remember this, fella cuz no matter where you go...
[kicks him in the face, sending him falling down the cellar]
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It takes a lot for me to designate a thriller as utterly and completely mesmerizing, but such is the case with the 1997 Kurt Russell vehicle Breakdown. I stumbled upon this gem when it was released on VHS some 10+ years ago, and, as I recently browsed the somewhat deflated selection of films available in my "Watch Instantly" Netflix queue, decided to give it another go. Once again diving headlong into this ballet of desert highway carnage was like getting reacquainted with an old friend; consequently, this has caused me to lament the stale-by- comparison state of many recent "road rage thrillers" offered up by Hollywood.
If you've never seen Breakdown, it could be described as a more intelligent version of Joy Ride (or, perhaps, The Hitcher). It's about a married couple named Jeff (Russell) and Amy (Quinlan) who are driving cross country—from Boston to San Diego—to take on more lucrative employment opportunities. Along the way, they almost collide with a local in a pick-up truck on a remote desert highway. When they stop at the next gas station, the fella driving the truck—a black-clad hombre with a handlebar mustache and a cowboy hat—proceeds to chew out Jeff for his idiotic behavior behind the wheel. The two eventually call a truce, part ways, and go about their lives. It's not long, however, before Jeff's brand new Jeep inexplicably breaks down. As the couple is trying to assess the situation, a man in an 18-wheeler stops, offers assistance, and eventually ends up suggesting the pair ride with him to the nearest town so they can call a tow truck. Jeff is leery about leaving his car on the side of a highway with a local lunatic on the prowl, so Amy hops in the semi, presumably to wait for her husband at a diner as he figures out what to do. Once she leaves, Jeff discovers the problem, fixes the car, and heads to the diner. When he gets there, though, Amy is nowhere to be found. The locals have no idea who she is, and they all claim to have never seen her. What ensues is a maddeningly wild goose chase across barren southwestern terrain as Jeff does everything in his power to find his spouse.
There are twists and turns aplenty, and the action is great. The most disturbing thing about the film is how genuine it all seems. I have no trouble believing that something like this could (and perhaps has) occur in such remote locales, and there's a real sense of desperation to everything that's unfolding. Russell is great as the panicked husband who knows he's going to have to take things to the extreme to get his wife back, and almost—almost—every one of his decisions seems completely rational. The movie does give way to certain conventions from time to time, and I wish it would've built up the paranoia just a little longer before the "big reveal" occurs (a la Arlington Road), but there's no denying the intensity on display here.
That being said, who's ready for a road trip?
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