1997 - R - 95 Mins.
|Director: Jonathan Mostow|
|Producer: Dino De Laurentiis|
|Written By: Jonathan Mostow, Sam Montgomery|
|Starring: Kurt Russell, J.T. Walsh, Kathleen Quinlan, M.C. Gainey, Jack Noseworthy |
|Review by: John Ulmer
Have you ever been stranded out in the middle of nowhere, not really sure what to do? Your 4x4 has broken down, and you're sitting on the side of the road, looking at the vehicle's engine, and nothing looks wrong. Your wife is in the passenger seat, anxious to get going. You're in the middle of nowhere, and that can be pretty scary. Then a truck comes your way, and the driver offers you and your wife a ride. You say you're going to stay with the Jeep, but your wife goes with the truck driver, who's going to drop her off at a bar up the road. You say thanks, and she's on her way before you can stop it.
Give me my wife!
Back at the car you find that a wire underneath has been cut. You twist them together and the engine starts. You're elated; you climb in the front and pull away to drive off into the distance to pick up your wife.
You arrive at the bar, and walk inside. Your wife isn't there. The bartender is of no help, and he won't even let you look at the orders for the day. You ask everyone there if they've seen a woman in a white blouse, but none of them seem to care. They ignore you. Frantically you track down the truck who picked your wife up earlier and run it off the road. You call a policeman, and he searches the truck.
Your wife isn't there, and the truck driver doesn't remember you at all. You know it's the guy, and the truck, but the cop lets him drive away. And so you are left stranded in the middle of the road with your vehicle, not sure what to do. So you try to track down your wife.
So that's never happened to you? Good. But in "Breakdown," Jonathan Mostow's thriller about paranoia, it happens to Kurt Russell's character, and he is left "Frantic" and in "The Game" of life.
Those quotes up there are in reference to Roman Polanski's 1998 paranoia thriller "Frantic" about Harrison Ford losing his wife in Paris; "The Game" is David Fincher's dark and broody paranoia thriller from 1997.
You see, "Breakdown" is much like those two films. It probably borrows from "Frantic" a bit, and I would give it a higher rating than "Frantic" because it is so expertly-crafted, but the end quickly turns into a kind of ridiculous stunt ride rather than a smart and intelligent thriller.
The whole way through, the film is amazingly realistic and scary and tense and chilling and paranoid and frantic, but then the end, as I said above, ruins the whole thing! It's stupid, and a mess. You feel like slapping Jonathan Mostow for ruining an otherwise above-average thriller. And two things about the ending don't work. One, the ridiculous car chase; two, as Ebert noted in his review (major spoiler ahead), killing villians is usually something the heroes do in a moment of self-defense, but Russell kills the truck driver after he (the truck driver) is already paralyzed and lying on a rock one hundred feet below. How's that for grisly? Ebert said the audience in the theater did not cheer, which proves that there is still decency in America's modern audience. I don't really care about killing the driver, but the chase scene was a waste of time and the buildup to it was ten times better.
But if you flip off the film before the last five minutes, you're sure to have a wildly fun time; it's an intense thriller that leaves you gasping for air. The suspense just builds more and more every minute, and we can identify with Russell's character very much.
The world seems to be completely calm and the fact that no one really seems to care about his wife makes him even the more frantic. I like to think that's what Russell's character feels like after he finds out his wife is missing and realizes no one is doing anything about it but himself. I get that feeling sometimes, whether it's over losing something small or big. No one seems to care anymore these days, and that's more startling, to Russell, than the fact that his wife is missing at all.