El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

Jesse Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) life goes from Breaking Bad to breaking worse in this feature-length follow-up that rivals The Angry Birds Movie 2 in terms of missing the boat.

If you were wondering what happened to Jesse immediately after the events of the show, the answer is not much. Having seemingly caught a strain of retroactive laryngitis while in captivity that makes him talk like Batman even in the past, Jesse sets about finding Todd’s (Jesse Plemons) hidden money so he can start over in Alaska. Old characters pop by, often in flashback, but it soon becomes apparent that there is no Breaking Bad without Walter White (Bryan Cranston).

It’s not that I don’t like Jesse; on the contrary it’s because I like him that I don’t desire to see terrible things keep happening to the guy. Hasn’t he suffered enough? Is it meant to be entertaining, watching the show’s most likeable character in constant distress? He basically spends two hours running around asking for people’s help in a pathetic sort of way, with little of the dark comedy or rug-pulling ploys that helped make Breaking Bad such a roller coaster.

Ultimately if these events were of any significance they’d have been included in the series, but there’s barely enough here for an episode, let alone a movie, padded out with fan service where there should be interesting developments or revelations. And it’s not even good fan service; encounters with revered characters reduced to hackneyed conversations and rehashed plot devices, one bit where someone does a long-winded manual task quite slowly, and a few utterances of “bitch” thrown in for good measure. I guess it would be weird without it, but no weirder than barely featuring Walter White.

Better Call Saul gets away with it because it isn’t Breaking Bad; it does its own thing without making concessions to the Breaking Bad fans (to a degree some find alienating), and succeeding as a show you can watch without knowing its predecessor. This is the opposite; a joyless, inspiration-free offering they made purely because they can, despite having gone out on top and no one asking for more. Or at least no one worth listening to. It’s like if Larry Gelbart had gone, “You know what, we never did get to see what happened to Radar in M*A*S*H.” Then stuck it on Netflix without telling anyone.

That it’s well made and impressively acted only serves to emphasise how much of everyone’s time has been wasted, ending as it does with Jesse finally deciding to make his own decisions. That’s surely where the film should have started.

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