Breakdown starts with a preposterous beginning: a husband and wife are travelling through the American Southwest in a new car, against a backdrop of scenic mountains and Joshua trees. The car breaks down. The husband doesn't say a thing as wife goes off with a trucker, who's a total stranger, to fetch help.
In this case, the role of the husband, Jeff Taylor, is played by Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan is his wife Amy. When Amy doesn't return, Jeff is lost and bewildered, and begins a frantic search to locate her.
Breakdown delivers what can be expected from a Hollywood summer movie: the action is good with a tinge of comedy and suspense. Russell's transformation from ordinary man to hero is quite convincing. There are some interesting/surrealistic aspects to the story (the dim-witted car waxer who helps Russell out and points to a conspiracy involving the police, Russell staring at pictures of missing people, a lot of which look like his wife, the son of the kidnapper is going in the direction of his father's criminal life) that are never developed. There are also some clever moments involving the ransom money.
The audience I saw this movie with cheered every time Russell scored a point by beating the kidnappers at their own, even at the end when the final coup de grace is administered. In fact, even I thought that provided a bit of comic relief.
I chose to go see Breakdown because I will be making a similar voyage across the country. While it didn't tell me anything that I already didn't know, it proved to be a good time killer. The movie works to the extent it does because it addresses a situation that could potentially exist for any of us (and perhaps already has for many people). Worth the matinee fare.