Plot: Jeff (Kurt Russell) is on a road trip with his wife Amy (Kathleen Quinlan), logging a ton of miles in the barren desert and the couple’s brand new Jeep seems to be having some issues. But Jeff is certain he has the situation under control, though his lack of focus causes him to almost run someone off the road and when the couple stops for gas, Jeff meets his near victim in person. After some banter over who was in the wrong, the couple heads out once again and thanks to Jeff’s lead foot, the Jeep overheats in the middle of an isolated stretch of desert landscape. A truck driver pulls over to lend a hand and while Jeff tries to find a quick fix, Amy rides with the trucker to a local diner, where she can contact a tow truck. Meanwhile, Jeff manages to start the Jeep, so he also heads to the diner, but once he is there, no one has seen his wife and after an extensive wait, it becomes clear Amy could be in real danger…
Entertainment Value: The premise of Breakdown isn’t an original one, but the movie is a tight, effective thriller with some good performances. A missing wife, paranoia, and conspiracy theories combine in this one, with Kurt Russell as an unlikable asshole in the lead. I like that Russell isn’t his usual self in Breakdown, as it lets him stretch his skills a little beyond cool, tough dude. Of course, some of his fans might be a little let down, but some of his charm still seeps through, especially as his persona softens a little as he spirals into the abyss. I think J.T. Walsh steals some of Russell’s thunder however, as he is a terrific villain and while his presence seems harmless, subtle dark touches shine through and make his turn quite effective. The narrative is tense and moves at a brisk pace, especially once a few of the pieces fall into place, as then the tension is steadily dialed up until the finale. Aside from a few instances, the narrative seems plausible and fairly grounded, especially by suspense/thriller standards. That adds a lot to the mood and goosebumps of paranoia, as while it would be a slight stretch, similar events could certainly unfold in real life. So if you’re a fan of creepy thrillers or Kurt Russell, this is one you should check out.
No nakedness. The shadow of sexual violence seems to hover over the entire movie, given that Amy has been taken, but no sexual content or naked flesh whatsoever is ever shown here. Some blood is seen, but it is often minor and the violence comes in short, infrequent bursts. A couple of mild gunshot wounds produce the most blood, while some minor injuries also arise and a high fall also takes place. But despite one wild moment in the finale, no graphic or gratuitous bloodshed happens. There is violence, but it is brief and never overly vicious or visceral in tone. As for dialogue, Russell’s abrasive asshole role allows him to get some cheap heat and Walsh’s “aw shucks” villain is good for a few laughs as well. But the tone is serious and doesn’t veer into camp, so while well written, there’s not much wild or quotable dialogue in this one. The serious tone also means little craziness, though the finale has a ridiculous moment and I love murderous hayseeds preying on random passersby.
Overall Insanity: 1/10