[REVIEW] Breakdown (1997) – ManlyMovie

[REVIEW] Breakdown (1997)


Runtime: 93 Mins
Rated: R
What To Expect: Taut thriller, underrated, J.T. Walsh… always expect quality with J.T. Walsh

It’s been kind of slow with reviews here recently.  So I have two retro reviews coming up, one is this (I kind of despair to now call 1997 ‘retro’) and the other is Charley Varrick (1973).  Both are lesser seen movies that deserve attention.  Kurt Russell made a streak of manly movies in the 1990s, it’s almost easy to forget them.  Backdraft (1991), Unlawful Entry (1992), Tombstone (1993) – which Russell supposedly ghost directed, Stargate (1994), Executive Decision (1996), Breakdown and Soldier (1998), yes, even Soldier was good, and it was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson.  But should we mention Escape From L.A.…?

In Breakdown, Russell’s manhood is tested when highway pissants kidnap his wife.  They think he’s a rich punk on account of the new ride he’s driving around in their backyard, and have a view to forcing him to enter the local bank and withdraw all of his money.  In reality, Russell’s finances are ‘pretty much fucked’ and he’s just another regular guy who bought the Jeep on credit.  The film was directed by Jonathan Mostow, who also directed U-571 (great sub thriller) so because of those two movies, I had high hopes for him taking on Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, but that was naive, since that was a movie owned and directed by producers and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Anyway, this movie is owned, in a different sense, by the late, great J.T. Walsh.  Man, how I love movies with this fellow in them.  He really was the seminal 1990’s bad guy.  You wanted a sleazy, creepy, lowly dog villain in a 1990’s movie, J.T. Walsh was your go-to man.  And he’s superb here, better than Russell, I have to say.  So utterly convincing, which is what sells Russell’s mountain to overcome.  Because his character is really out of his depth, facing this scumbag.

This is a taut movie, 90 minutes.  So it’s very well paced and has some oldschool action direction.  No-one would’ve dared shaken the camera back then.  I think my favourite thing about it though, is Russell’s character’s transformation from beta surburbanite to mad dog alpha, tearing shit up because you really, really don’t touch a man’s woman, that’s one thing that’ll leave you choking for air and with a flattened bloody face, as Russell leaves one of his assailants in this movie. Or his ride for that matter, you don’t touch a man’s wheels, ever.  Oh, and the score is also by Basil Poledouris, who compsed the music for RoboCop.  Check this one out.