Crackerjack

Charm, gumption and a Yippee-ki-yay motherf*cker vaulted Die Hard into everyone’s favorite Christmas classics list. Crackerjack, by contrast, will do the opposite.

Die Hard on a mountain, this Canadian cheapie also has German baddies, and Christopher Plummer subbing Zs for Th’s as a Teutonic villain who favors starch collars and ugly racial politics as he takes a bunch of partiers hostage.

Luckily, a besotted Chicago cop (Thomas Ian Griffith of Karate Kid III fame) on vacation with his sister and bro-in-law is there to intercede, but not without a few J&B whiskey product placements and sound stage sullen set pieces along the way.

Crackerjack is bloody hilarious.

Its McClane is wound so tightly he punches out the organizer of his surprise party, and because this is knuckle-head action territory, he’s also been suspended from the force because he doesn’t see eye to bloodshot eye with the chief. And despite being able to knock back enough spirits to best Charles Bukowski, he’s still savvy and tough-as-nails enough to go toe-to-toe with his ruthless adversaries.

Genre fans will get a kick out of the Serpico nods, a Fredo-lite lifted right out of The Godfather and mise en scènes adorned with art depicting non-existent Chicago bluesmen, ’cause, you know…This is one Chicago cop who’s got the blues.

Crackerjack 3, the film’s equally hilarious (though unrelated) sequel, was a Koreatown DVD pick up by the authors of this site. In that one, Cold War spies reunite to take out a baddie threatening to lay waste to a German UN building. And its denouement reveals some subterfuge involving garden gnomes (!).

This one is a worthy series entry, with cable cars descending when they should be ascending, bizarre geographical blunders of bikinis and beach babes not normally present at such altitudes, and Nastassja Kinski as a deer-in-headlights love interest.

** (out of 5)

[Check out our Crackerjack discussion on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

When Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan spun off the show’s charmingly dissolute counsel and  infomercial chiseler, Saul Goodman, it was a natural fit. After all, the glib litigator stole every seen he was in, thanks to Bob Odenkirk.

However, with El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, Gilligan had his work cut for him: building an epilogue around perma-scowl ne’er-do-well Jesse Pinkman, a dimwit brought to life as foil for Walter White, who couldn’t have existed without him — all id to White’s superego.

With this sequel and coda to the Breaking Bad series, Pinkman is on the lam playing catch me if you can, having busted loose from the Brotherhood’s razor-wire meth compound, and leading the 6 O’Clock news in Albuquerque with his drug dealer exploits.

He briefly meets up with larrikin buds Badger and Skinny Pete for a new ride, shave and a shower before he’s off trying to track down Ed Galbraith, the fixer/Saul Goodman contact who give cons new identities and helps ferret them out of town.

In El Camino Gilligan plays to Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) “do now, ask questions later,” impulsivity (call it a strength if you must).

Gilligan crafts a film noir “what to do with all this money?” set up, which careens like Badger’s Pontiac Fiero.

Flashbacks to Pinkman’s captivity, plus tête-à-têtes with Walter White and Mike Ehrmantrout help keep things chugging along, but it’s those characters’ small roles that underscore just how big and vital these were to developing Jesse Pinkman. With the White sit-down particularly, the sparks fly as the ex-mentor presses his charge, Jesse, about what major he’d choose if the unlikely college candidate were to choose that route. It turns out, business with a focus on marketing, and White suggests he could teach these.

In El Camino, these wordy exchanges are lacking, perhaps because of time constraints, in a format that doesn’t lend itself to them, but that’s what made Breaking Bad so charming in the first place.

***1/2 (out of 5)