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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Breakdown (1997), directed by Jonathan Mostow

I've decided that I never want to see a movie with the audience from Rotten Tomatoes. Not a thriller, anyway. It must be like watching a movie in an asylum for the freakishly insane. A few examples:

The Firm - 64%
Mercury Rising - 41%
Point of No Return - 51%
Presumed Innocent - 66%

And Breakdown: 66%

These people wouldn't recognize a good thing if it was flashed up in front of their eyes at the size of a small house. Oh, wait...

Breakdown is, in fact, a gem. One of the best thrillers of the 90s, which was a damn good decade for this kind of movie. It's about a mouse named Jeff (Kurt Russell) and a cat named Red (J.T. Walsh), in a battle to the death in the New Mexico desert.

When Jeff's car breaks down on a lonely stretch of highway, Red, a big-rig trucker, stops and offers to take Jeff's wife, Amy (Kathleen Quinlan), to a diner so she can call for help. Later, after discovering the source of the problem -- a couple of wires that have mysteriously come uncoupled -- Jeff arrives at the diner only to discover that no one there has seen his wife. It's the beginning of a nightmare that leaves Jeff no choice but to somehow find Amy on his own, if she's still alive.

Jeff's on his own because the cops, who seem helpful enough, don't have enough to go on to do very much but "keep a look out." There's a creepy scene in the police station when Jeff gets distracted by the Missing Persons board. He can't take his eyes off it: so many young women, all very similar to Amy, all having disappeared without a trace.

Russell was an excellent choice for the role: small enough to be a believable everyman, big enough to come across well in the action scenes. And there's plenty of action, once Jeff begins to penetrate the plot behind Amy's abduction. Director Jonathan Mostow and Sam Montgomery, who wrote the screenplay, do a good job of setting up details that pay off later. One good example is the way they make Red and his offer of a ride look particularly inviting.

Suspenseful, exciting, well-written and acted...66%? That's just nuts.