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*Also starring: J.T. Walsh, M.C. Gainey, Jack Noseworthy

Review by Walter Frith
3 stars out of 4

White knuckler! That's the term that first came to mind when figuring out how to describe 'Breakdown'. Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan play a young couple traveling across the United States as Russell is in the process of changing jobs and their journey from Massachusetts to California takes an unexpected and nightmarish jolt in the Arizona desert when they are set up by a team of criminals (led by J.T. Walsh) who trap and extort money from upper income and wealthy people using kidnapping and murder to get what they want.

The casting of Kurt Russell in this motion picture is most effective as Russell is a perfect portrait of the everyday man and doesn't ruin the film by becoming a macho and unbelievable wrecking machine which is the trademark set by stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis.

The set up, midsection, and conclusion of 'Breakdown' are all extremely vivid and credible and the movie is also vividly surreal in telling a story that can happen to anyone. Director Jonathan Mostow has selected a captivating and borderline macabre tone to the entire film paying tribute to the master of macabre himself, Alfred Hitchcock. While the film never crosses the line into macabre storytelling, it certainly plants its toes on the finish line. 'Breakdown' is also spellbinding in keeping the audience guessing as to what exactly is going on until you figure things out at about the halfway point.

The talents of under rated character actor J.T. Walsh are executed brilliantly in this movie as Walsh's portrayal of evil is as mind numbing and bone chilling as any villain in recent memory. I would have liked to have seen his character utilized a bit more on an expanded level in 'Breakdown' but he is terrific nonetheless.

While 'Breakdown' borrows from a number of motion pictures such as 'Deliverance' (1972), and most recently 'The Vanishing' (1993), it manages to establish its own identity by creating an acceptable amount of violent tension relevant to the story and an adult theme that will keep you on the edge of your seat for its entire running time courtesy of the screenplay by director Mostow and his writing partner Sam Montgomery and keeping an audience on the edge of their seats is what movies are all about.

Copyright 1997 Walter Frith

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