From the Vault: Breakdown (1997) Simon Fitzjohn July 27, 2011 From The Vault 2217 Now I would never say that Kurt Russell was one of my favourite actors, but the simple truth is with The Thing, Escape From New York and Big Trouble In Little China on his resume, he probably deserves to be. Maybe it is because he stays out of the public eye, or has slipped into that ‘veteran’ phase which means his on-screen appearances have become fewer, but Russell never gets the credit I should afford him. Even so, I still make a point of checking out his films if I get the chance, which is why I remember watching Breakdown at a cinema in Cardiff on its release. The movie was one of those that I ended up buying on DVD when it fell into the reduced range, but have only recently got round to watching again and it still stacks up well. Directed by Jonathan Mostow, who has seen his helming career stall more recently with the misfires Terminator 3 and Surrogates, Breakdown is a taut, tension-packed 90 minute ride that grabs you from the get-go. Russell plays Jeff Taylor, who along with his wife (Kathleen Quinlan), is driving through the Arizona desert on his way to a new life and career in San Diego (lucky him). After a run-in with some truckers at a gas station, Taylor’s car breaks down (hence the title) but salvation comes in the form of another trucker (played with relish by the late JT Walsh) who offers to give his wife a lift to the gas station to call for a pick-up. Off she goes – and that is that last Taylor sees of her. What follows is part conspiracy, part thriller and part chase movie as Taylor realises all is not what it appears as he attempts to locate his missing wife. There are definite echoes of The Vanishing and even Duel here and Russell is on fine form. The story just about stays the right side of believability and Russell does not overdo the ‘superman’ style heroics the rescue bid could easily become. Quinlan has little to do except whimper and whine, but her role is very much subjected to support as Russell and Walsh face off in an enjoyable showdown that is both physical and psychological. Breakdown may not quite reach the heights of the Russell classics I reeled off in the opening paragraph, but it is certainly a quality piece of entertainment.