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Blu-ray Review: Breakdown (1997)

September 22, 2021

By John Corrado

This week, Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing the 1997 thriller Breakdown for the first time on Blu-ray, newly remastered from a 4K film scan.

The film follows Jeff Taylor (Kurt Russell) and his wife Amy (Kathleen Quinlan). They are in the process of moving to California, when their car breaks down on a stretch of desert highway. A trucker (J.T. Walsh, in one of his final film roles) offers to give Amy a ride to the nearest town to call for help, and from here things take a turn for the worse.

Directed by Jonathan Mostow, Breakdown still mostly works as a solid mid-budget studio thriller. Mostow makes the most of the film’s roughly ninety minute running time, building suspense through the relatively simple premise and offering a few twists and turns.

The tagline is “it could happen to you,” and the first stretch of Breakdown does have an eerily grounded quality to it, as Mostow builds on the idea of road rage and being isolated in the middle of nowhere with no way of getting out. While it becomes more of a typical action picture in the last act, the film still very much retains its entertainment value through to the big finale.

It’s a solid and tightly made late-1990s thriller that features Kurt Russell in entertaining action hero mode, with the actor doing all of his own stunts. The film’s practical effects also still hold up, and the 35mm cinematography has a nice granular, filmic look to it on the remastered Blu-ray.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray includes a number of new bonus features, including a commentary track, isolated score track, and several featurettes. There is no digital copy included in the package.

Commentary by director Jonathan Mostow and Kurt Russell

Filmmaker Focus: Director Jonathan Mostow on Breakdown (10 minutes, 46 seconds): This new featurette finds Mostow reflecting on the making of the film, which actually started as a Stephen King story set in the desert that he was making with producers Dino and Martha De Laurentiis, before morphing into this original script when they lost the rights to King’s name. He also talks about working with Russell, using practical effects at a time when CGI was starting to take over, and the surprising success of the film with critics and audiences.

Victory is Hers – Kathleen Quinlan on Breakdown (4 minutes, 22 seconds): Quinlan reflects on her role in the film, including working with the producers, director, and her co-star Russell.

A Brilliant Partnership – Martha De Laurentiis on Breakdown (8 minutes, 8 seconds): De Laurentiis offers her own reflections on producing the film and working with the director and actors, nicely complimenting the first two featurettes.

Alternate Opening (11 minutes, 40 seconds): A deleted prologue for the film detailing the backstory of Russell’s character as a photographer in a war zone. Mostow introduces the sequence, explaining how the studio insisted on shooting it, and reluctantly agreed to test screen the movie with and without it, before finally agreeing that it played better without it. It’s not bad on its own terms, but is completely needless and definitely would have thrown off the tight pace of the film.

Alternate Opening with commentary by Jonathan Mostow (11 minutes, 54 seconds): The same sequence, but presented with Mostow providing audio commentary.

Theatrical Trailers (6 minutes, 51 seconds)

Breakdown (2 minutes, 10 seconds)

Kiss the Girls (2 minutes, 17 seconds)

Hard Rain (2 minutes, 23 seconds)

Isolate Score

Breakdown is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 93 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: September 21st, 2021

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