Picks and Pans Review: Breakdown
Breakdown is going to wreak havoc on a number of moviegoers' summer vacation plans. After catching this high-octane thriller and seeing what bad things can happen to good people out there on our nation's highways, anyone planning a cross-country drive may decide to cancel before even gassing up.
The good people here are Russell and Quinlan, a yuppie couple headed from Massachusetts to San Diego for new jobs. When their brand-new, cherry-red Jeep Grand Cherokee sputters to a stop in the middle of the desert somewhere west of the Rockies, Quinlan jokingly moans of their trip, "This could be the worst decision we ever made." Correctomundo, lady. It turns out that their car was tampered with at the last gas station by a gang of nasty, truck-driving rubes who prey on rich folks passing through. These bad guys kidnap Quinlan and play vicious cat-and-mouse games with Russell as he frantically tries to track her down. (Russell doesn't do himself any favors when, at the only cafe for miles around, he asks the scruffy locals if anyone has seen his wife. "She's wearing a white Benetton sweater," he says, mistaking these sartorially sorry codgers for Elle subscribers.)
The movie, deftly directed by Jonathan Mostow, doesn't provide much in the way of character development or deeper meaning. But it does have a pip of a plot, a straight-ahead, ratchet-up-the-suspense approach to its narrative, and a slam-bang final sequence involving multiple trucks that recalls Steven Spielberg's virtuoso work in his 1971 TV movie Duel. Russell, in scaled-down Clint Eastwood mode, nails his character's mounting panic and matching resourcefulness. Quinlan has a few good scenes early on but then disappears for much of the film. Breakdown won't change your life, but it will keep you entertained and on the edge of your seat for two hours. Sometimes that's enough. (R)