Welcome to my column dedicated to the appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on the Paramount Pictures release of Breakdown.
I don’t think I have to inform you who Kurt Russell is. Kurt Russell is beloved in the genre community, on par with the likes of Bruce Campbell. He cut his teeth as a kid working the Disney circuit to his collaborations with John Carpenter. These parlayed into starring roles throughout the ’90s; if you’re a fan of film, you’ve encountered a Kurt Russell performance. His career trajectory hit an apex in 1997 when he headlined the hit film, Breakdown.
Breakdown gets many cheers from fans as a tight thriller akin to Alfred Hitchcock. I recall seeing the film in theaters and, while liking the movie, never loved it. The tension never quite ramped up as I wanted. I fault the script as the mystery and paranoid elements the film tries to incorporate fall flat. Instead, the film plays out in a straightforward manner and, while not bad, makes a film that could have been great to just good.
Still, as harsh as I may sound, I like the movie overall, and I am a sucker for a Kurt Russell movie. When I heard that Paramount Pictures was releasing the film on Blu-ray with a host of new supplemental features, Breakdown would certainly join my physical media collection.
I remember a time, back in the days of DVD, when a film was getting released by Paramount, I would shudder. Not because of the movie itself, but Paramount was notorious for releasing bare-bones discs. Many discs released by the company during the heyday of DVD would be lucky to have a theatrical trailer as the only feature. You might say this was a dark period for Paramount. Thankfully, the company looks to atone for their lack of love in the past with a welcoming treat courtesy of Breakdown‘s Blu-ray release.
The disc comes housed in a slipcover of newly-created art. A nice touch that Paramount has done with their “Presents” line is the slipcover folds open to reveal the film’s original theatrical poster. Is this essential? Absolutely not, but it shows that the company cares about its releases more than the DVD days. The interior case contains alternate artwork, different than the slipcase. Again, another nice touch.
Let’s get to the meat and potatoes as Paramount cobbled together a heck of a package for fans of Breakdown.
First and most important, director Jonathan Mostow and Kurt Russell sit down for a newly-recorded commentary. I can’t stress how much excitement I had when I heard Kurt Russell was doing another commentary track. In the past, Russell has done multiple commentaries with John Carpenter. He has a knack for mixing humor with behind-the-scenes anecdotes that many commentators cannot balance. This track is no exception. Russell and Mostow make an engaging pair who reminisce about the film’s shoot and offer open and honest thoughts about how the film came to be and their thoughts on the final product. As with other commentary tracks involving Kurt Russell, this is a must-listen.
Another feature on the disc comes from an alternate opening sequence. If you’ve seen Breakdown, you know the film is tightly-paced without additional fluff to pad the runtime. Hearing that there was an alternate opening, I sat up, interested, as I had no clue what that could be. Come to find out: it’s superfluous. The alternate opening sets up unnecessary backstory for Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan’s characters. I liked having the sequence on the disc to see what could have been, but the removal was the correct choice. The alternate opening also contains commentary with Mostow, discussing the details of how this sequence came to be and his thoughts. Listening to Mostow talk about the politics of how and why he had to create this opening is more interesting than the scene itself.
The next feature on the disc is: “Filmmaker Focus: Director Jonathan Mostow on Breakdown.” “Filmmaker Focus” is straightforward as Mostow talks about how Breakdown came to be, the challenges of filming, and additional anecdotes from the set. Most of the information dispensed by Mostow repeats from the commentary track. Even with the duplication of information, it is welcome to have Mostow on screen to talk about the film.
Another interview on the disc, “Victory is Hers,” is an interview with leading lady Kathleen Quinlan. This interview is fun yet brief, as Quinlan talks about working with Russell, Dino and Matha De Laurentiis and her moment to shine in Breakdown. As Quinlan’s role in Breakdown is substantially less than Kurt Russell’s, a short interview is not surprising. The interview is cut and only allows moments on a particular topic. I wish there was more to hear from her, but it’s better to have something than nothing. Also, to note about this interview, “Victory is Hers” is shot over Zoom. So prepare accordingly for the quality to differ from typical interviews.
The last interview on the disc is “A Brilliant Partnership,” featuring Martha De Laurentiis. “A Brilliant Partnership” stood out as my favorite interview of the bunch. De Laurentiis offers a production aspect that Mostow and Quinlan didn’t. Listening to her explain the production process and small insights into how Dino De Laurentiis goes about his productions. This interview comes with a touch of melancholy as Martha would pass away on December 4, 2021, not long after this interview.
Lastly, the disc contains three trailers: one for Breakdown, along with ones for Hard Rain and Kiss the Girls.
And there you have it! Breakdown isn’t the end all be all of action/thriller films, but it’s a taut, well-made slice of cinema and a throwback to a generation of in-camera action. The Paramount Presents line of releases gives lovers of physical media another reason to rejoice. While not substantial by boutique label standards, Paramount did Breakdown justice with enough bonus features to make fans of the film happy and those that have yet to see it seek out this release.