EL CAMINO: A BREAKING BAD MOVIE – Review by Lesley Savage

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Breaking Bad fans jonesing for a fix of the critically-acclaimed AMC TV show, about a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer who becomes a methamphetamine cook to leave money for his family upon his death, will score big with El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” appearing in select theaters nationwide for a three-day run and on Netflix before airing on AMC.

Written and directed by show creator, Vince Gilligan, the film has the same look, feel, and tone as the series which debuted back in 2008, had a five-season stint, and impressively won 28 industry awards. The cinematography is typically Gilliganesque, using time-lapse photography of traffic, skies, and searches, as well as shots of movable parts of mundane things. Naturally, there are iconic desert landscapes, too. Visually, the film will satisfy its loyal fanbase.

The story tracks Jesse Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) journey that takes place post-Walter White (Bryan Cranston), except for a few fan-servicing flashbacks. The first shows Mike Erhmentraut (Jonathan Banks) advising Jesse to go to Alaska, the last frontier, to reinvent himself, though he stresses he’ll never make things right.

Breaking free from a heinous captivity could’ve been easier for Jesse than it was because he seems to suffer from Stockholm syndrome. When he does get outside the cage he’s been held in, it’s only to serve an oddly sentimental, tarantula-loving master named Todd (Jesse Plemons), who holds an enormous stash of ill-gotten cash that needs to be protected at any cost.

When Jesse eventually does free himself from Todd’s chains, he visits the only people he knows will help him — his tweaker friends, Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones). From there, Jesse scrambles to track down Ed (Robert Forster), a vacuum-cleaner salesman who had planned to help Jesse escape his hell previously. Because he was stood up, however, Ed wants to collect his old debt, which Jesse doesn’t have. With no alternative, Jesse seeks ways to find money to rehire Ed. The capers here are all quintessential Breaking Bad, replete with simultaneous cleverness and absurdity.

The movie is noticeably estrogen-deficient, but presumably the world of illicit methamphetamine manufacturing is, too. Of course, it’s also true that many of the original characters were killed off or escaped. Combined with Jesse being in pure survival mode, it’s understandable that Gilligan had limited roles for women here. Jesse’s parents, Adam and Diane Pinkman (Michael Bofshever, Tess Harper), have a few brief scenes. Girlfriend Jane (Krysten Ritter), who OD’d in the series, makes a cameo appearance in the form of a flashback. Other than those two, the only women are a shopper looking for Ed to salvage her old Kirby vacuum, a car full of strippers, and narrator roles through which much of the exposition was delivered.

Overall, there’s not much a Breaking Bad fan won’t like here, even if it isn’t the most compelling story or brilliant film event of the year. At a minimum, it delivers the goods that the TV show did, and brings, if not a conclusion, then it at least fills in some interstitial frames for what happened to Jesse, or perhaps a certain Mr. Driscoll from Alaska.

ABOUT LESLEY SAVAGE: Lesley Savage is a Florida-based freelance writer and photographer.

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