Wednesday, September 1, 2010

#71 - Breakdown - 1997

It is now my 11th week of my Big Fat Summer Movie Marathon and I've got just 3 weeks and 2 days left. Damn I've seen a lot of movies! This week's theme is Suspense/Thriller and this first one I chose is a doozy. I made Breakdown my 1st choice this week and it is a small little treasure I have also enjoyed. I don't recall this film being a blockbuster by any means in theater's when it came out but I really liked this movie and thought it had a lot to offer. Below is my detailed review.

This film wasn't big on blockbuster actors but had a good cast. The lead for this film was Kurt Russell as Jeffrey Taylor and his wife Amy was played by Kathleen Quinlan. Other notable actors in this film were the late JT Walsh as a murderous truck driver Warren "Red" Barr and a couple of his partners in crime were Earl (M.C. Gainy - think Justified, Happy Town, and Con Air), and Billy (Jack Noseworthy). The town sheriff, Sheriff Boyd was played by CSI: Miami's own Rex Linn. Jack McGee who played the bartender at Belle's diner was also the individual who played the drunk Santa Clause in the Miracle on 34th Street remake. Crazy how I always recognize people from Christmas movies huh?

I thought this story was a good one and well written to be honest with you. It's basically a story of a couple who gets stranded in the middle of the desert and when the wife goes with a helpful trucker she ends up getting kidnapped and her husband must find a way to rescue her if its not too late. I am always intrigued by stories or films that are based on something that in my mind could really happen in real life and this was one of them. There are movies like Spiderman and Transformers which are pure Hollywood entertainment and then there are others like this movie and a Time to Kill or Vacancy that are films that are very powerful and dramatic and could really take place so they seem that much scarier to me. I kind of put myself in there place and think, "what would I do"? Granted not everyone thinks like I do and a lot of people might think these things could never take place but I beg to differ, I think they could and possibly even have over time just maybe not to the full extent that we see on a Hollywood movie.

This film mainly takes place in the desolate desert of New Mexico and to me that makes it even more scary for the victims. Driving across the desert at anytime can be scary especially when you think of possibly breaking down and not having anyone to help. Back in 1997 cell phones were not very popular but Jeffrey did have one of the old big bulky ones however there was no service (shocker) for him to use it. This to me would be a nightmare. I already have a preconceived notion about the desert and being stuck out there would only add fear for me if I were in his place. One thing I would not have done was let me wife get in someone's car without me, never but hey this was a movie and that had to happen in order for the movie to progress with its story.

One thing I loved about this film was Russell's incredibly convincing and mesmerizing performance of a husband determined to find his wife and save her life. His dedication throughout this film and obstacles he had to face were monumental and the pain, agony, and stress that was visible on his character throughout the movie was amazing. His acting skills were top notch in this movie and I don't recall another movie that he was this convincing in, this one really stood out to me. The anger he had the defeat in his face when he saw his wife in a bag and thought she was dead was just incredible acting and I thought he was just great in this movie. When he did finally have control for a brief minute at Warren's house in his kitchen I have to admit I would never have been able to not shoot them right there on the spot. Everyone there except the mother and kid of course.

There were some very intense scenes in this film which culminated to a dramatic ending of the film. The first car chase scene where Earl tries to gun down Jeffrey immediately showed us the extent of trouble that his wife was in and what kind of people he was dealing with. Jeffrey felt a plunge into a fast moving river was necessary and eventually got away but just for a brief time. You could tell right then and there that he was in some serious trouble. Another scene which was quite intense but completely unrealistic was when Jeffrey got underneath Warren's big rig and hid and eventually crawled on the side of it and into the back compartment right behind the driver. There is no way anyone can tell me that it would have been possible to do what Jeffrey did in this scene in real life but still it made for good entertainment and suspense.

As Warren arrived home with his young son greeting him in the early morning Jeffrey still hid and eventually got off the truck and went into the barn where Warren was meeting Billy and Al and this is where Jeffrey first saw his wife since she disappeared. This is the scene where Russell's emotions and incredible acting skills were in full effect more than any other scene in the film. The fear mixed with anger in his eyes as they swole up after thinking his wife had died was something you would totally expect from someone in real life had they been in that situation. The entire film from here on out was a complete adrenaline rush and as suspenseful as a movie gets. Seeing the underground basement in the barn and hearing the three red neck hicks talk of other murders so casually was terrifying. The moment they left the barn to go have breakfast inside Jeffrey took action and tried to free his wife but he was unsuccessful in opening the hatch therefore he had to go inside the house.

Armed with a gun he found in one of the cars in the barn Jeffrey entered the house and after a brief struggle with Warren's younger son he forced most of them into the barn to open the underground basement and he got his wife out and forced them all in. I especially loved it when he kicked Warren in the face before latching them inside. One problem existed though, Billy got free during the struggle in the house and he came back to help free Warren and his buddy and his wife and then the chase was on, literally. After driving through the middle of a mobile home trying to kill Jeffrey and Amy in his big rig Warren and his crew are on the hunt.

The final sequence of this film shows Jeffrey and Amy trying to escape in a truck they got at Warren's house but they were quickly being shot at and enclosed in on the small two lane highway by Warren, Billy, and Al. Trapped they were able to break free for a short time and Billy eventually crashed and blew up and Al later came to the same fate so it was Warren and his big rig chasing Jeffrey and Amy onto the bridge. After trying to force Jeffrey and Amy over the bridge in the truck we are treated to a final intense battle where Warren's big rig goes off the ledge and is hanging by a wheel and a fight ensues between Warren and Jeffrey. After literally hanging on for his life Jeffrey grabbed a hold of the big metal chain Warren was hitting him with and pulled Warren over the edge where he fell to his eventual death. In what I thought was a corny way to end it the producers did not have Warren die immediately but only led on to that but he dies only after Amy releases the brake on the truck forcing that and the big rig down the cliff which crashed down on top of Warren therefore officially killing him. I think anyone is smart enough to know Warren would have been long gone from just the fall on top of the rock alone but still even with this scene the way it was all ended well for the good guys and not so well for the bad guys, the way a movie should be. Take away the semi-corny ending and focus on the sheer suspense of this film I would easily give it a B+!

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