Breakdown (15)

Directed by Jonathan Mostow
Starring Kurt Russell, JT Walsh, Kathleen Quinlan

A superior thriller that does little new or original, but tells a decent story well, and keeps the suspenses and tension high.
Married couple, Russell and Quinlan are driving across the USA through redneck country when their car breaks down. Quinlan gets a lift from truck driver JT Walsh to go to the nearest diner to ring for a tow truck. However, when Russell sorts out his car and follows on, intending to meet up with her, no one at the diner has seen her or the trucker. Russell catches sight of the truck, and flags him down with the help of a cop, but Walsh says he never has seen Russel in his life, and there is no sign of Quinlan. Russell's nightmare continues when he is chased and shot at and taken prisoner. Can he use all his resourcefulness to thwart the mad truckers? Or will Quinlan be dead already?
A bit like the superb thriller The Vanishing at first, this film isn't that downbeat, and soon it is action man Kurt. However, Russell is excellent, conveying the right mixture of desperation and determination that makes his character real without becoming a superhero. The motives of the gang of criminals is a little dodgy however. Is this really the easiest way to make money? It seems awfully complicated, but then a film about a straightforward kidnap wouldn't be that interesting.
JT Walsh died a few weeks before the UK release of this film- he was always a reliably good character actor, and perfect at playing slimy creeps- as he does here. Kathleen Quinlan is a professional "wifey" in movies I think. Dreary two dimensional roles seem to be her thing. Shame as she is a good actress, and it was lovely to see her and Russell as a similarly aged married couple- as Hollywood's usual husband has a wife 20 years younger.
Taut action thriller with a slightly disappointing last 15 minutes, but well made and nicely acted. 7/10

May 1998

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