‘El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie’ Review

You can't go home again

Honestly, it's not like the world needed a Breaking Bad movie, but this being a world of reboots and additions, retreads, hot takes and reimagining, why the hell not pile on with one of the most beloved stories in TV history—but this time in movie form?

When last we saw Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), Walt had taken down a white supremacist compound with a remote controlled light machine gun and Jesse had driven off into the sunset in an El Camino (Hey! That's the name of the movie!). Jesse had been kidnapped by the ever-horrifying Todd (Jesse Plemmons), a child murderer and nephew to the white supremacist bigwig known as Uncle Jack, and forced to cook meth the Heisenberg way while living in a cage, and we pick up moments after his escape. With his newfound freedom, Jesse decides to tie up loose ends, interact with a few fan fave characters like Skinny Pete and Badger and Joe the junkyard guy, and his overall plans are to get out of town, but not before he sows and reaps that Pinkman brand of violence wherein things just kind of happen to him rather than him having a hand in his own fate.

El Camino feels like an extended episode of the show, but one of those bottle episodes that focuses too much on plot devices and wrapping things up than it does on what we really want to see. This is slow and methodical, though with very little that actually happens. El Camino is Aaron Paul's movie, and the giddy feeling that comes with the return of Jesse Pinkman wears off awful fast. We phase between the past and the present, little scenes that set up motivations and exposition, and then we reach the payoff in the present wherein the information in the flashback shows us why Jesse knows where Todd lives, why he still feels a weird allegiance to Mr. White and why he's fixing to stick it to this one evil welder guy—yeah, welder guy.

Everything else is sheer fan service, little nods to elements from the show that anyone who hasn't seen Breaking Bad wouldn't understand or care about, and this begins to feel silly. OK, yeah, we recognize that one van, we still hate Todd, we still wonder if Jesse's parents care about him anymore, but taking a major chance to add a deeper ending and then squandering it on a nonstop cavalcade of slow burn scenes and "remember when…?" moments seems beneath creator, writer and director Vince Gilligan; don't hold your breath for a bunch of Walt scenes, either, nor do we find out what happens with Aunt Marie, Skylar, Walt Jr. or anyone else we grew to love. Uncle Hank is super dead—it would have been interesting to see how that shook out.

But of course, the subtitle just so happens to be A Breaking Bad Movie. "A." As in, singular, but it's implied there could be more. Will we see more Netflix-produced movies in the saga? Is Skinny Peter: Another Breaking Bad Movie on the way? How about Pontiac Aztec: Yet Another Effing Breaking Bad Movie? Who can say, but as Netflix enters the upcoming streaming wars and loses so much of its content to the looming Disney service, one might easily assume that if El Camino makes a few bucks or earns a few new subscribers, that they'll keep it going. After all, Better Call Saul is wrapping soon, and Gilligan is gonna have to find something to do. Oh yeah, and there's not Bob Odenkirk in this movie, not even in a flashback. Bogus.

So yeah, you'll probably watch it, and you should, but whereas the original show was like super-lightning in some kind of super-bottle, El Camino feels more like a cash grab or maybe even like scraping the bottom of the Pinkman barrel. This is fine, it's absolutely fine, but it's not the same, nor could it be. Expect no more.

+Hey, it's more Breaking Bad!
-Oh, but it's kind of weird and slow

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
Directed by Gilligan
With Paul and Plemmons
Netflix, NR, 122 min.

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