This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Breakdown (1997)

"You better pray she's still alive!"
-Jeff Taylor

This past Christmas was more hectic for me than usual because my wife and I were also moving into a new place. As I'm sure everyone who has changed residence can say, moving can be quite hectic. But, when it's done, most of us have the luxury of reflecting that it was just a matter of getting things done, one at a time.

In contrast, the couple in the film Breakdown have to go through something a lot more nerve-wracking than moving.

Jeff and Amy Taylor (Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan) are traveling from Boston to San Diego in their Jeep Grand Cherokee when the vehicle breaks down in the middle of the desert.

Red Barr (J.T. Walsh), a trucker, stops by and offers assistance. He agrees to take Amy to a nearby diner to call a tow truck while Jeff elects to stay behind and watch the car.

While he's waiting, Jeff realizes that the wires in the car were deliberately tampered with. He promptly reconnects them and heads to the diner, only to find out that no one there has seen Amy.

Jeff manages to track down Red, who claims that he never laid eyes on Jeff. Even the police don't prove much help when they search Red's truck and find no signs of Amy.

But a mechanic named Billy (Jack Noseworthy) informs Jeff that he saw a lady matching Amy's description being taken into another truck at another location. Shortly after arriving there, Jeff is ambushed by Red, Billy, and trucker Earl (M.C. Gainey), whom Jeff had an argument with when he and Amy made an earlier stop at a gas station.

They give Jeff the ultimatum of giving them the thousands of dollars they think he has in his bank account or, as Earl puts it, "well, you can just keep your fucking money, Jeff, and I'll keep your wife. And I'll mail you pieces of her from time to time."

The remainder of the film has Jeff intensely attempting to outmaneuver the trio before finally getting the upperhand and retrieving Amy, which, in turn, leads to the climatic showdown with Red.

I've always felt that Russell was one of our most underrated actors, and this film reinforces that notion. He's a perfect, likeable everyman here, and Quinlan matches him, which makes it very easy to root for this couple.

The late, great character actor Walsh is also terrific as a seemingly Good Samaritan who turns out to be Jeff and Amy's worst nightmare.

The movie, which has echoes of Duel (1971) and a dash of Deliverance (1972), perfectly captures a scenario we all hope and pray we never have to experience.

Jonathan Mostow, the movie's director and co-writer, would go on to make U-571 (2000) and (although I didn't like it much) Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003).

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