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Breakdown
Starring Kurt Russell, J.T. Walsh and Kathleen Quinlan
Screenplay by Jonathan Mostow and Sam Montgomery
Directed by Jonathan Mostow

Breakdown is the latest in a long line of summer flicks that gives the term "Good Samaritan" a bad name. Starring the always- likable Kurt Russell, the movie is a lightweight thriller that has two very important things going for it. First, for those inclined to yell back at the movie screen during a show, it will push all the right emotional buttons and get you shouting early on. Second, and more important, it has a killer money shot. The money shot is the one scene which producers hope will have the audiences tell their friends about, thus encouraging those friends to lay down their greenbacks as well. Usually it involves an explosion or incredibly wicked way to die (a la the falling windowpane of glass towards the end of Ghost) and in Breakdown it's the latter.

Jeff Taylor (Russell) and his wife Amy (Kathleen Quinlan) are taking the scenic route while they relocate from Massachusetts to their new home in San Diego, California. They have a shiny new car, loaded to the hilt with every gizmo you can get. It's a sure sign of wealth, though the flick makes every effort to point out that buying the thing was an extravagance the couple could not really afford. Like I said, a sure sign of wealth to any kind of trash looking for a quick buck.

The car breaks down. A helpful trucker (J.T. Walsh) offers a lift to the next phone, so that a call for a tow truck can be made. That's the last we see of the wife. The rest of the film involves Russell's attempts to get her back, which leads to an elaborate ransom scheme and an even more elaborate escape. In between you get (almost) white trash stereotypes, police who may or may not be in on the deal, and little else. Breakdown is a realistic thriller -- everything that occurs in the set up is logical and not far fetched, which is the problem.

Y'see folks, the problem with simple thrillers is that they're way too simple to talk about without giving it all away. Summer flicks -- popcorn flicks -- should be outlandish popcorn munchers. Intense thrillers, which do not need outrageous explosions btw -- should get your heart pumping hard enough to burst. Breakdown doesn't do that well. The bad guys are scummy enough that the some of audience applauded when they got their just rewards, but the house didn't rock.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Breakdown, he would have paid...

$5.00

If the crowd had cheered at the credits I would have upped it a buck. When the money shot hit, people were happy and applauded -- it was a cool crunching way to dispatch the bad guy. But no one cheered and that, for a summer flick, is death.

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