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)

Pieces

Although clearly Europe, the purportedly Boston-set slasher, Pieces, does take the viewer to another place entirely.

(For 80s gore-heads, Bean Town is the setting for the fairly pedestrian slasher, Night School, filmed in the city’s Beacon Hill neighbourhood).

Like other slasher masterpieces from the era, Pieces whets appetites with a delicious prologue and a nudie puzzle-obsessed kid who wastes his mommy all in the first five minutes.

When the authorities arrive, no need for any further forensic investigation, as they just take the word of the child.

Fast forward into adulthood with the nature-nurture problem solved, and Timmy is back to his murderin’ ways, attacking coeds on a campus in a string of set pieces that are more bush than Ivy league.

Pieces then lives up to (or down to) its name depending on one’s perspective, with a couple of whiz-bang gruesome chainsaw killings, and a Red Herring in the form of a leering, cross-eyed college groundskeeper, Willard (such is the level of sedateness / quietude at this particular institute of higher learning that the school’s Dean himself, rather than an underling, is responsible for hiring the gardener and negotiating his contract!)

The real hilarity ensues when genre stalwart Christopher George (City of the Living Dead/Grizzly/Graduation Day) wanders in as law enforcement, with an oft-repeated gag about him needing a cigarette lighter that is as dead in the water as this pic’s vics. Rather than put out a notice to the study body that there are student bodies piling up, he hatches a plan to have one of his colleagues go undercover as a varsity tennis coach! (played by Linda Day, real-life missus to Mr. George).

Suffice it to say, there’s a lot to “love” about the embarrassing strokes (the cast members weren’t quite adept at racket sports). The crowd’s reaction to the matches, and women who the Williams sisters could best with just their backhands, is priceless.

Still, as some wag on Instagram put it, this is the finest Italian, Spanish, Puerto Rican production they’d ever seen! A total blast.

*** (out of 5)