AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY
KISSED - VOLCANO
ROMY AND MICHELE'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION - BREAKDOWN

AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY

"Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" stars Mike Myers as the title character and his nefarious nemesis, the evil Dr. Evil. It's 1967 and British super secret agent Austin Powers has just thwarted the doctor's latest attempt at world domination. But, the evil genius escapes and, with his cat Mr. Bigglesworth, is cryogenically frozen and launched into space in a rocket disguised as a giant Bob's Big Boy, with plans of dominating the world, once again, in the future.

Austin Powers also subjects himself to the deep freeze, knowing, when he comes back, he'll be called upon by queen and country to defeat Dr. Evil.

Robin ROBIN:
"Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" marks Myers' arrival at the doorstep of mastering that difficult balance between farce and parody. He spoofs the 60's spoofs of the James Bond movies - James Coburn's "In Like Flint and "Our Man Flint", and Dean Martin's "Matt Helm," with a touch of "Casino Royale" - in a manner that is dead on. The feel of the film is solid 60's in music, costume and look and feel.

Myers also provides his trademark farcical humor with a bevy of bathroom, toilet and sex jokes. He carries the vulgar humor several beats beyond the mildly amusing, stretches the gags almost beyond the realm of funny, then further still. It works. He keeps the laughs coming for most of the film. There is a short lapse at the hour mark, but it's self correcting. Myers, in his duel rolls as Powers, and the bad guy, Dr. Evil (who is a duplicate of that perennial Bond bad guy, Blofeld), is funny, goofy, sassy, droll, clueless, but always in control. His ability to create characters may put him a league with Peter Sellars.

Myers proves himself to be a true one man show, giving himself most of the frequent laughs (sometimes, belly laughs) that "Austin Powers" offers. This is the most even of his comedy efforts, to date.

Supporting cast is not really up to Myers performances. Elizabeth Hurley is serviceable, not notable. Cameo roles are several, with the likes of Robert Wagner (as Dr. Evil's #2 henchman named, uh, #2 - you can guess the toilet humor this spawns), Mimi Rogers, Michael York and, as himself, Burt Bacharach.

I'm not declaring "Austin Powers" as one of the great movies, but it sure is one funny sucker that makes no pretense other than deliver laughs. The humor is low brow, but so am I, sometimes.

I can't remember the last time I laughed, loud and frequently, at a comedy. (For comparison, I chuckled two or three times during the entire length of "Liar Liar.")

I give "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" an enthusiastic A-.

Laura LAURA:
"Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" was written and produced by its star, Mike Meyers ("Wayne's World," "So I Married an Axe Murderer"). Powers is a sexy babe magnet and undercover agent in the swinging London of the 60's whose arch enemy is Dr. Evil (also played by Meyers with Strangelovian flair). When Dr. Evil escapes Austin by having himself cryogenically frozen along with his beloved cat Mr. Bigglesworth and launched into orbit in a huge Big Boy rocket ship, Powers volunteers for the big freeze as well in order to be defrosted when Evil strikes again.

He gets his chance 30 years later in 1997, emerging in a spoof of Sylvester Stallone in "Demolition Man." He's teamed with the serious minded Vanessa Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley), the daughter of his former Emma Peelish partner played by Mimi Rogers. Austin immediately proclaims that as long as free love and mind bending drugs are still around, he'll be OK, and proceeds to try and 'shag' every femme fatale in site.

This film is out and out hilarious and very well conceived. Meyers displays comedic brilliance in his dual portrayals, wearing bad teeth prostethics and silly clothes as Powers and a bald skull cap and serious facial scar as Evil. He also gets to show off some inspired dancing techniques and brilliantly timed choreography (two sight gag scenes feature first, the naked Powers wandering about a hotel room while various objects serve as his fig leaf, and secondly the naked Hurley being masked by such objects as melons and jugs!).

Evil's wicked cohorts include such dubious characters as Frau Farbissina, Paddy O'Brien whose trademark are his 'lucky charms,' and Random Task (snicker, snicker), giving Bond's enemy Odd Job a run for his money with his lethal shoe throw.

The film also displays its wit by spoofing such 60's movie conventions as flashy, garish flower graphics, split screens, cheesy pop music and Laugh-In style punctuation cutaways.

I didn't stop laughing from Power's opening march down Carnaby Street to the escape from nasty sea bass by dental floss and toothpaste scene. It's really groovy, baby.

A-


KISSED

Kissed is the debut of Canadian independent Lynne Stopkewich and it's an odd debut indeed - the film's heroine is addicted to making love to the dead. Sandra Larson (played as a child by Natasha Morley and as an adult by the photogenic Molly Parker) has always held a morbid fascination for the dead, performing ritual burials of small dead animals in the dead of night as a child, then using an opportunity delivering flowers for her father's shop to obtain a job in a funeral home. To Sandra, making love to dead young men is a private spiritual cleansing. When she meets the living Matt, he becomes obsessed with her and her dark secret.

Laura LAURA:
"Kissed" is a true original - I can't recall a non-horror film in cinema history that dealt with the subject of necrophilia. The film gave me the oddest reaction. I felt slightly queasy, somewhat creeped, mildly amused and strangely moved all at the same time.

Director and cowriter Lynne Stopkewich has made a most impressive debut. Actress Molly Parker has also managed quite an accomplishment in creating a character who's oddly indentifiable, spiritual and carries the feminine mystique to new plateaus. It's not that hard to understand why Matt, the young medical student played by Peter Outerbridge, finds her so fascinating.

The film's first third charts the beginnings of Sandra's strange predilections. She becomes friendly with another outsider, Carol, and introduces her friend gradually into her burial rites. When Sandra decides to share the final part of her ritual, a whirling escstatic dance in the woods in her girlish undergarments, the scene recalls that other paeon to childish dark obsessions, "Heavenly Creatures." Carol miscomprehendingly goes along until Sandra, in her fervor, smears dead chipmunk blood about her neck. Sandra is again alone and the film dissolves to the adult Sandra.

In the second third, Sandra finds another strange compatriot in Mr. Wallis, the funeral parlor owner who complicitly understands her need for the dead, although the understanding is never spoken of between the two. She asks Wallis to teach her the art of embalming, which he does in a matter of fact scene that's not for the squeemish. Now Sandra has private access to corpses and 'crosses over' into blinding light. Stopkewich uses lighting symbolically throughout the film to express both the commonly accepted concept of 'walking into a bright light' as one dies as well as spiritual esctasy.

The final third concentrates on Sandra's relationship with the living Matt, who recalls an early 70's matinee idol. In recognizing her sexual proclivity, Matt becomes obsessed with trying to break through to Sandra sexually, finally realizing that it will only be possible in the most extreme sense.

Amazingly, the film manages to flash ironic bursts of humor throughout its short running time. Sandra's first experience with a corpse takes place while she brings a hearse through a car wash. Wallis dismisses his caretaker Jan's reverence for the dead with an almost snorted 'He's Catholic.' When Matt lays himself out wake-style for Sandra's pleasure, she recoils, calling the situation 'too weird.'

"Kissed" is economically shot, beautifully lit and features an appropriately ethereal, beautiful soundtrack.

B

Robin ROBIN:
At one point, an hour into "Kissed," I thought a good descriptor of the film was, "Dear Diary, I had sex with another corpse today, then, my boyfriend got weird." This isn't far off the mark.

Who would have thought that film about a woman who practices necrophilia would be an intelligent, well-written, -acted (by newcomer Molly Parker as the lead character, Sandra Larson) and -directed piece of work. The film, based on Barbara Gowdy's short-story "We So Seldom Look On Love," is the debut directing job by Canadian Lynne Stopkewich, who co-wrote the screenplay with Angus Fraser. She shows an adept touch, with Parker, in revising the viewer's attitude on necrophilia from its, initial, creepiness to one approaching acceptance and understanding. As, I said, I thought her boyfriend was weirder.

In her feature debut, Molly Parker gives a strong and sensual performance as a woman who's fascination with death has gripped her since childhood. This culminates with her having regular connubial relations with her deceased wards at Wallis Funeral Home, where she works and, uh, plays. Parker strips the creepiness of her actions away as she gently caresses her lovers, and dances a ritual honoring them, as she takes them and the life force they still possess.

Peter Outerbridge, as Matt, bears a striking resemblance, particularly around the eyes, to a young Peter O'Toole, to the point of near distraction for a while. He represents the creepiest element of "Kissed," with his obsession of Molly and her obsession, representing the real perversion of the story. Molly may have an affection for the dead - she derives pure life essence from her cold amours - but, she doesn't want to trade places with them as Matt does.

Director Stopkewich, adapting an interesting, if unconventional, story with Fraser, makes a striking debut and shows a lot of talent in writing and directing. I look forward to seeing her future work.

Cinematographer Gregory Middleton uses lots of harsh, blinding white light to accentuate the image of death in the film. You hope he finishes with this theme and he doesn't disappoint.

I obviously don't recommend "Kissed" to the average filmgoer. It's the kind of movie that I do recommend to those of you who are willing to leave the mainstream behind and take a chance with this very different kind of character study. Of course, if it wasn't for Laura, I'd never see anything like this on my own.

"Kissed" gets a B.


VOLCANO

The start of the summer blockbuster season begins, in ernest, with "Volcano," the film it's advertisers claim will make you believe the coast is toast.

Tommy Lee Jones stars as Mike Roark, the director of the Los Angeles Office of Emergency Management who is facing the crisis of his, and his city's, life. A recent earthquake has opened a fissure into the earth's core, a fissure centered at L.A.'s famous La Brea Tarpit and spewing lava toward the city's center - Wilshire Boulevard.

Helping Roark prepare to battle the superheated magma is plucky university seismologist, Dr. Amy Barnes, played by Anne Heche. The pair have their work cut out for them, and a few thousand volunteers, as they face the challenge of diverting the lava from inundating the Cedar-Sinai Hospital and its many hundreds of volcano victims.

Robin ROBIN:
"Volcano" is the opening salvo in what may prove to be a record-breaking summer season for Hollywood product - I expect the likes of "Lost World," "Batman and Robin," "Speed 2" and "Men In Black," amongst others, to give last year's market blasters ("Independence Day," "Mission: Impossible," and "Twister") a run for the money. I'm betting that Spielberg's "Lost World" will be the very first billion dollar earner, theatrically, world wide.

In the meantime, "Volcano" stars the venerable Tommy Lee Jones as Mike Roark, the Director of the Office of Emergency Management for the City of Los Angeles, a man who is suddenly facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions. A "geologic event," centered at L.A.'s La Brea Tar Pits, occurs in the wake of one of the city's famous earthquakes. The event, the beginnings of a volcano, brings the Pits to a boil and releases a gush of the earth's magma into the streets and the underground subway system of L.A. Roark has the awesome responsibility of taking on the volcano, mano-a-mano, and saving his city.

Called in to lend her expert assistance is university seismologist, Dr. Amy Barnes (Anne Heche), whose academic and field experience make her the perfect complement to Roark's problem solving skills. The two strive, with the help of a few thousand city workers and volunteers, to stem the uncontrolled destructive power of the lava outpour.

For what it is, "Volcano" is an entertaining, if cliched, piece of work that keeps its action pace at such a level that it helps to mask the unoriginal nature of the production. The magnitude of the effort, replicating, in near scale, a quarter mile of Wilshire Boulevard on 17.2 acres of parking lot at the McDonnell Douglas Aircraft plant in Torrence, CA, is impressive and reportedly one of the biggest sets, ever. The effort looks good, with thousands of pounds of propane burning up blocks of "L.A." and the lava flowing relentlessly.

Tommy Lee Jones, giving a stalwart performance, does just about everything there is to do during the course of "Volcano" - emergency first aid, manual labor, demolition, saving everybody he can (including his daughter, Kelly (Gaby Hoffman), several times), AND using all his wiles to defeat the forces of Mother Nature are all within his job description. Don't wait for an Oscar nom for this performance, however.

Anne Heche is proving herself to be a versatile and talented actress. She was one of the few good things in the horrible Demi Moore vehicle, "The Juror," and gave a credible spin as an undercover cop's wife in "Donnie Brascoe." Here, in "Volcano," she's smart and competent, coming across as believable character and scientist. She's a good actress who is capable of leading roles. I hope to see more of her.

Supporting cast is not given a great deal to do. Don Cheadle ("Devil in a Blue Dress," "Rosewood") plays Jones' assistant at the OEM who holds down the fort as his boss saves the world, but, that's it. Keith David is given major billing (#6) and is barely in the film.

The star is, of course, the volcano effects. Seeing the coast become toast may be the biggest draw for audiences to this routine F/X extravaganza.

Note the use of the now obligatory doggie in distress - one of Hollywood's favorite cliches. This time, there is a twist when the little guy saves his squeaky toy from the lava flow. I chuckled.

"Volcano" is a mildly entertaining, if unmemorable, effort that I'll give a C+.

Laura LAURA:
Following one the heels's of February's "Dante's Peak" is "Volcano," the still formulaic, but better, volcano flick of the year.

Tommy Lee Jones stars as Mike Roark, the divorced head of Los Angeles' emergency crisis unit, who's on vacation to spend a week with his daughter Kelly (Gaby Hoffman "Everyone Says I Love You," "This is My Life") when both an earthquake hits and three city workers get steamed alive and one survives seriously burned while working below ground. Running back to the job, Roark engages the services of Dr. Amy Barnes, (Anne Heche "Donnie Brasco," "The Jury") a seismologist, to investigate the underground event which occurred right outside the famous La Brea Tar Pits. Before everyone's quite finished making light of her suggestion of volcanic activity, downtown Los Angeles starts gushing forth lava like nobody's business.

Although accompanied by all the city's rescue forces, Tommy Lee Jones seemingly takes on the volcano single-handedly. He's somewhat reminiscent of Harvey Keitel in "City of Industry" - a determined man who keeps on going in the face of what appears to be indefeatable adversity. By film's end, when Jones saves his daughter and a young child from an entire disintegrating high-rise, things have gotten more than a bit far-fetched, but it's an enjoyably tense and exciting ride getting there.

The most awe-inspiring scene is a heroic rescue from a stopped subway car - when the head of the rescue team staggers across the car cradling an injured man while the soles of his sneakers melt and finally sacrifices himself to the lava, it's turn-your-head away horrific.

Director Mick Jackson ("LA Story") had a formidble task on his hands and does a credible job recreating Wilshire Boulevard and other LA locations being destroyed on the largest stage set ever created. Unlike "Dante's Peak" the volcanic activity in "Volcano" manages to seem truly menacing - you can almost feel the intense heat. Good special effects.

The film manages to rise slightly above its disaster formula by turning a number of cliches slightly sideways (a dog saves itself from encroaching lava, for example) with tongue firmly planted inside cheek. I'm sure a large percentage of the audience will also get a vicarious thrill in seeing such LA landmarks as the Angelyne billboard go down in flames. However, in the end, "Volcano" is just another movie starring special effects over characters.

C+


ROMY AND MICHELE'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION

Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow are Romy and Michele, two bleached blonds and best friends who, while they lack good jobs and boyfriends, have always had each other. In their cluelessness, they don't even realize how little they've amounted to until they're faced with travelling back to their home town of Tuscon for their 10th high school reunion. When their efforts to improve their lots in order to impress those they left behind don't pan out, Romy and Michele decide to reinvent themselves via fantasy rather than reality.

Laura LAURA:
"Romy and Michele's High School Reunion" is a refreshingly funny comedy about the plot of two dim-witted LA blondes to return to their high school reunion back in Arizona in triumph.

Lisa Kudrow (TV's "Friends") is Michele who's unemployed and has lived with Romy in LA for the past 10 years. She makes a lot of their clothes and lets Romy make the decisions. Mira Sorvino (last year's Best Supporting Actress winner for "Mighty Aphrodite") is Romy, who works as a cashier at a Jaguar dealership and finds out about the reunion when Heather Mooney (Janeanne Garofalo "The Truth About Cats and Dogs"), a caustic, black-garbed chain-smoking, successful former classmate stops by to pick up her car.

At first Romy and Michele are excited about the reunion. When they take stock of their lives, however, they realize they haven't amounted to much (although they've been perfectly happy anyway). When their attempts to get flashy new jobs and boyfriends fall flat, they decide to reinvent themselves with a bit of fantasy - two businesswomen who invented Post-Its.

We learn through flashbacks that while not outcasts, Romy and Michele weren't part of the 'A Squad' - a group of obnoxious beautiful cheerleaders who made their life hell - either. Romy was pudgy and had a crush on the clueless Billy, boyfriend of A Squad nasty Christy. Michele wore a backbrace to correct scoliosis and was the object of class nerd Sandy Frink's (Alan Cummings "Circle of Friends") undying devotion. Meanwhile Heather Mooney was a total loser, hopelessly in love with Frink, who frequently had run ins with a cowboy hatted silent stranger who found the same secret smoking spots.

Kudrow is perfect as Michele - a role she originated in the play "Ladies Room" on which this screenplay is loosely based. Sorvino is wily and confident as the slightly more intelligent Romy. The two play off each other beautifully - whenever one declares a liking for something and the other agrees, they do it with such amazement at the coincidence that it can make one laugh out loud. Great comic timing. Garofalo always adds something and her Heather is a scream - she's delighted to find out that even she was responsible for tormenting another less fortunate classmate. Alan Cummings is becoming a favorite character actor - he goes from pathetic nerd to a cosmetically altered billionarie in a hilarious Michele dream sequence to successful more confident nerd in present day. The reunion stopping dance number he enjoys with his female costars is almost worth the price of admission alone.

Briskly paced, nicely shot, with a well executed screenplay, good soundtrack and great makeup and costumes, "Romy and Michele" was a pleasant delight from start to finish. It's bound to be compared with "Clueless," but while the wit isn't quite as sharply honed, its heart is equal.

B

Robin ROBIN:
"Romy and Michele's High School Reunion" is a good-natured little movie with a couple of attractive and likable leads by Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow, and a featherweight script.

Romy and Michele are two twenty-somethings who relocated, after graduating high school in Tuscon, AZ, to L.A., with hopes of making their fortune. Romy is a clerk at a car dealership and Michele is unemployed, when they learn about their 10th anniversary high school reunion. The pair, even though they've thoroughly enjoyed their time together in the City of Angels, feel the need to pretend they're something they're not to impress their former classmates.

"Romy and Michele's High School Reunion" is a fun little work with a lot of heart, but not much in the way of substance. Its messages of friendship, being true to thyself, honesty is the best policy, etc., are nice and positive for the teen girl target audience. Romy (Sorvino) and Michele (Kudrow) are offbeat role models for America's youth, to say the least.

Of the two, Lisa Kudrow gives the most even performance. It's not a stretch from her character, Phoebe, in the TV series "Friends," but I like her, nonetheless. She has decent comic timing and is a natural for the ditzy role of Michele.

Mira Sorvino is OK as Romy, but, I found her valley girl delivery to be more forced and, because of this, false compared to Kudrow's. She delivers the lines well enough, but they tend to be just that - line delivery. She doesn't come close to her Oscar-winning performance in Woddy Allen's "Mighty Aphrodite."

Janeane Garofalo, as the frumpy Heather, gives the only fully developed performance in the film. She plays a character who is successful in life despite the miserable experience of high school. She's caustic, witty and helps raise the level of the film a wee bit.

The resolution of all the girls' foibles, is unimaginative and unoriginal. Once Romy and Michele learn their life lessons at the reunion, everything falls into place, as expected.

I didn't really expect anything more than I got from "Romy and Michele," and, I got something a little above average and lightly amusing.

I give "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion" a C+.


BREAKDOWN

In "Breakdown," Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan star as Jeff and Amy Taylor, a Massachusetts couple who are staking everything they have on a relocation to San Francisco. They decide to take their new, expensize Jeep on a scenic route through the desolate southwest.

Following a near accident and confrontation with local rednecks, the Taylor's car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, putting the couple in jeopardy from the rednecks. Saved by the arrival of trucker Red Barr, played by J.T. Walsh, the Taylors decide to separate, with Jeff protecting all that the have, while Amy grabs a lift with Barr to a nearby truck stop.

What happens next is a whirlwind of action as Jeff realizes his wife is missing, confronting the trucker later on with the help of the unbelieving local sheriff.

Robin ROBIN:
In "Breakdown," Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan star as Jeff and Amy Taylor, a Massachusetts couple who are staking everything they own in a relocation to San Diego. On their way out west, they decide to drive their expensive new Jeep via the scenic route through the desolate southwestern U.S.

Following a near accident and confrontation with local rednecks, the Taylor's car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, putting the couple in jeopardy from these same rednecks. Saved by the arrival of friendly trucker, Red Barr, played by J.T. Walsh, the Taylors decide to separate, with Jeff staying with the car and their possessions, while Amy grabs a lift with Barr to a nearby truck stop.

What happens next is a whirlwind of action as Jeff realizes his wife is missing, then, attempts to unravel the plot involving kidnapping and, possibly, murder.

"Breakdown" is a competent action thriller that owes more than a small nod to Steven Spielberg's first made-for-TV movie, 'Duel," the 1988 Dutch mystery, "The Vanishing," and Roman Polanski's "Frantic," starring Harrison Ford.

Aside from the rather lightweight plot premise that puts the couple into the jaws of danger - hoodlums are terrorizing the deserted highways of the southwest by randomly selecting victims based on what kind of car they drive. This seems like a haphazardly profitable venture, at best, with the risk of FBI investigations of kidnapping and murder.

Despite the silly story premise, "Breakdown" does a credible job of entertaining the viewer in a suspenseful, taut manner with breakneck action and thrills in a runtime of almost 90 minutes.

Casting is solid, with Russell doing yeoman's work, nothing more, as the frantic husband trying to cope with the dilemma of his missing wife. Russell handles the action stuff pretty well, obviously doing at least some of his own stunt work.

J.T. Walsh, as the head bad guy, comes across as honest and sincere in the beginning, lulling the viewer. When he comes out as the leader of the rednecks, the change in temperament is striking and scary - he becomes a monster before your eyes.

Kathleen Quinlan, billed third, is in the film for about 20 to 25 minutes. She's bright and perky in the beginning. When she returns to the screen, near the end, she's mostly the put upon victim. She gets a measure of revenge, silly as it is, in the end. Her plight is not followed for the bulk of the film.

Supporting cast is limited, but fittingly ruthless and cruel.

Scenery and the related photography make good use of the desolation and vastness of the American southwest.

Forgetting about the main story line and its flaws, "Breakdown" is a tight action thriller that gives more than a casual tip-of-the-hat to the films I mentioned earlier. It certainly is an above average effort that provides the needed suspense to sustain it for its run time.

I give "Breakdown" a B-

Laura LAURA:
"Breakdown" is a tight thriller that effectively remixes ingredients from such films as Spielberg's made-for-TV "Duel," "Deliverance" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan (Oscar-nominated for "Apollo 13") are Jeff and Amy Taylor. They're in a precarious point in their lives - financially insecure, they've invested most of their cash in a new Jeep to travel from Boston to new jobs in San Diego. In the desolate and alien Southwest, they clash with some tough locals in a mud-splattered pickup truck and then break down on a lonely stretch of road after those same locals have threateningly passed them. Along comes a seemingly upfront trucker played by J.T. Walsh, who offers them a ride to the nearest diner for help. Afraid of leaving their costly vehicle within range of bad news types, Jeff lets Amy accompany the trucker while he waits with the Jeep. Too much times passes and Jeff finally discovers the disconnected wires that had him stranded. When he arrives at the diner which is inhabited by very unfriendly types, noone admits to having seen any sign of his wife or the trucker.

"Breakdown" is a good paranoia film where strangers, especially those from a different culture, are not to be trusted, and where the inexplicability of events can make one mistrust their own sanity. Jeff quickly learns that he's the victim of an elaborate kidnapping scan, and is set up to believe that absolutely everyone he comes in contact with is in on the plot.

After Jeff spots the trucker and forces him off the road, the local sheriff comes to his aid but is powerless to detain the trucker who claims no knowledge of Jeff or his wife and appears to all intents and purposes to be completely innocent. The sheriff offers an impotent course of action - report Amy missing to his deputy at the station. When Jeff does, he's greeted by a wall covered with missing persons posters. Eerily, there are apparently more people missing in this territory than present and accounted for.

Kurt Russell is truly the common man, an urban yuppie not prepared to deal with anything more life-shattering than a radical job change. It's to the film's credit that Russell's exploits while trying to save his wife (and she may not even be alive), while truly more and more harrowing, are always believable. Unfortunately "Breakdown" suffers from the rather common movie failing of not being content with one climax. The first of those, where Jeff confronts the conspirators at Walsh's desolate family farmhouse, is truly harrowing as not only Jeff must confront the monster trucker, but Walsh's innocent wife and child must as well. The second climax is Hollywood at its most over-the-top cliche. The final coda brings the film's effectiveness down a couple of notches. Still and all, "Breakdown" is a pretty taut thriller presented in a blessedly lean 90 minute running time.

B


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