Film: Breakdown

Breakdown is a 1997 thriller, written and directed by Jonathan Mostow. The main stars were Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan.

Newlywed couple Jeff and Amy Taylor are driving their way across the United States to their new home: California. The first sign of trouble is barely-avoided collision with a truck. Followed by meeting its rather irritable driver Earl (MC Gainey) at the nearest gas station. Not long after leaving said station, their vehicle breaks down in the middle of the desert. Warren "Red" Barr (J. T. Walsh), a trucker, stops by, offering to transport Amy to the closest diner. From where she can hopefully call for proper help.

Jeff soon finds out that their vehicle had a very specific problem, disconnected wires. Someone had arranged their "accident". Locating Red doesn't provide much help. He claims not remembering either Taylor. Local simpleton Billy (Jack Noseworthy) tells a contradictory tale. Jeff soon finds out Amy is abducted and more than one person blackmails him for money.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Jeff.
  • The Alleged Car: One Chase Scene has Jeff and Amy trying to escape the gang members in an old, rusty utility pickup truck. It doesn't take the bad guys long to run them down.
  • Car Meets House: While pursuing Jeff and Amy at one point, Red crashes his 18-wheeler straight through the middle of a trailer home.
  • Chain Pain: Used as an Improvised Weapon towards the end of the film by Red.
  • Damsel in Distress: Amy for most of the film.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Red has a wife and son at home, neither of whom know anything about his leisure-time activities.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: When Jeff manages to score a hit on Billy's car, it flips over, and promptly explodes.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Red is crushed by his own truck. Arranged by Amy, the moment her hands were free.
    • For a twofer, Red tried to use a length of chain as a weapon to gain an edge on Jeff. This ultimately backfires on Red, when Jeff grabs the chain, and pulls Red over the edge of the bridge.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: To get Earl to tell him where Amy is, Jeff ties Earl's neck to the headrest of the passenger seat of a car with duct tape, then repeatedly accelerates the car and slams on the brakes.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Billy pretends to have an intellectual disability the first time Jeff meets him.
  • Oh Crap!: In Red's kitchen, Jeff thinks he's got Red, Billy, and Al right where he wants them...then Red's son comes in pointing a shotgun at him.
  • Outside Ride: Jeff finds his way to Red's farm by hitching a ride on the outside of Red's 18-wheeler.
  • Plot-Driven Breakdown: Averted. Jeff and Amy's car breaking down sets the plot in motion, but we find out later that the breakdown happened for a very good reason: the motor was sabotaged.
  • Protected by a Child: When Jeff walks into the farmhouse kitchen with a pistol and orders Red to hand over the key to the barn, Red's young son, Deke, grabs a loaded shotgun and tries to protect his parents.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Earl gives one to Jeff, telling him all the ways he made himself stand out as an easy mark for the gang.
    "You've gotta be the dumbest motherfucker yet. Think we just picked you out of the clear blue? Shiny new car, Massachusetts plates...probably be a week before anybody misses you. Shoulda got that bumper sticker that goes with that car: 'Rich Assholes Looking for Trouble.' Sure wish I'd been there to see the look on your face when your car seized up on you. Maybe next time you'll learn...don't leave your hood open when you go in the store."
    • It's actually an interesting subversion, in that Earl is completely wrong about Jeff and Amy being "rich assholes looking for trouble." They're actually middle-class people who are not looking for trouble; Earl is just a serious hypocrite. And his surprise when he learn how wrong he is causes him to drop his guard for a second... and Jeff is able to overpower him.
  • The Savage South: Jeff and Amy are from Massachusetts, and the movie takes place in Arizona. Part of the reason given by the gang for why they were chosen as targets is because they were outsiders, and therefore easier targets.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Near the end of the movie, Red starts to threaten Jeff and his wife (the latter having just been rescued from the chest freezer in which the villains left her to suffocate) only to be silenced nine words in when a severely stressed-out Jeff screams "You FUCK!!!" and kicks him in the face.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else: By the time Jeff finds out that the "friendly" trucker and the "helpful" youth with the supposed mental disability are both in league with the bad-tempered stranger and all three have it in for him and Amy, he's gotten so paranoid that he can't bring himself to trust anybody who lives in or around the town, not knowing who else might be in on the scheme.
    • It gets even worse when Jeff follows the Big Bad home and discovers that he's an ordinary family man with a wife and kid — neither of which has any idea of what he does in his spare time.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the cop Earl shot? We never see him again afterwards, though the ambulance that Jeff called may have saved him.
    • There's also some Fridge Horror concerning whatever happened to Red's wife and his son after they were freed. Not only is their family patriarch dead, but they also just discovered that he was a Serial Killer; that's gotta be hard to take.