If you haven’t watched “El Camino” yet, and you plan on it, I’d suggest stopping now, and reading this after. The spoilers are real, my friends.
Let me begin by saying how much I love(d) “Breaking Bad”. I caught the first season right before the finale, as there was some marathon playing the first night I moved to Dunwoody, Georgia. Never had I seen anything like it, such a great concept of a person getting terminal cancer, and then having to turn into a drug-dealing gangster to provide for his family with what little time he has left. It just felt like there were so many ways it could go, and every single episode would just improve upon it all. Best execution of a great concept in the history of television, and also probably the best final season and finale of any television show ever, for my tastes.
Onto “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie”. I loved it. Unlike “Better Retcon Saul”, there are actually high stakes, and not an infinite amount of bloated seasons for AMC to pad the story. Boom, you start off with Jesse doing exactly what Walt did in the first scene in “Breaking Bad” history, waiting around with a gun to see if the cops will come bust him, as they quickly drive passed. Actually, it started with a Mike and Jesse flashback, which setup the entire plot for Jesse’s escape, but anyway. Next, we get to hang out with Skinny Pete and Badger again.
I will say this, with the beanie on Skinny Pete (played by Charles Baker) looks like Walton Goggins a bit, but without the beanie he’s a dead ringer for John Hawkes (Sol Starr from “Deadwood”). I will also say that Skinny Pete giving Jesse his beanie felt like reference to Aaron Paul’s character in “Bojack Horseman”, who has quite a funny origin for his own beanie. First problem in the flick for Jesse, how do we get rid of the “El Camino”? Well, it’s time to call “Fake Kramer” (actor Tom Pepper). I love that they brought back our favorite junkyard owner, but of course that would be too easy, so Lojack comes into play, and everyone has to split up. Did I want more Badger and Skinny? Of course, but I enjoyed our visit with them “apexing”.
Jesse Plemons’ “Todd” is my favorite performance in this entire film. We don’t get to see what Todd is about much in “Breaking Bad”, but we can tell his a nutjob. “El Camino” highlights Todd’s creepy killer aspects in-depth. From him acting like it’s just another day at the office, while he offers his slave a cigarette, to petting Jesse like a dog for being quiet while they drive around. He killed his cleaning lady for the same reason he killed a little boy in “Breaking Bad”, because they saw something they shouldn’t have, but in this film Todd doesn’t even crack a bit of emotion while explaining the murder.
There was a ton of dark comedy in this film, but the funniest physical moment had to be Jesse tossing a rug full of dead person over the side of a third story balcony. The slow build-up, as he wrestled the dead weight over the side had me chuckling.
Here comes the real fun. Jesse goes to Todd’s apartment to find money, and we get a great sequence and shot of Jesse tearing the whole apartment set apart from an eagle-eye point of view. Outside of the usual long landscape shot of a tense moment, this was my favorite piece of cinematography in the entire film. Then my newest favorite actor, Scott MacArthur (Scotty the Hotty from “Righteous Gemstones”) shows up as a fake cop. Now, I’m probably a little biased because I’m a huge fan of his work on the other show, but this inclusion made the whole movie work for me. Jesse had an antagonist he could actually get some comeuppance with, and he’s also one of the most hysterical bad guys in the business this year, so we all win.
Jesse finding the money just in-time for a stand-off with some fake cops, and then turning it into a way to wheel and deal for the money was classic “Breaking Bad” Jesse. Scott Shepherd also plays his second memorable creep in something this year, as he was exactly that on Season 3 of “True Detective”. His character wasn’t much of a gun fighter, but he was a great Steve Buscemi to Scott MacArthur’s Peter Stormare for all you “Fargo” fans.
The Robert Forster stuff was top notch. Loved Jesse remembering the van, and then having to pay for the ride he skipped out on. I also loved him going to full Jesse mode, thinking he was right about the fake phone call, and then the cops pulling up behind him. I was wondering how Jesse would escape without his help, but that didn’t need to happen.
We get a scene with Jesse and Walt hanging at a diner, after we see them leave a hotel, early on in their career. I guess it showed that Walt never really knew Jesse, but that he was still trying to care for him by giving him advice, though horribly. We finally get to see Jane one last time, as Jesse and she talk about how to live life. Just a couple of nice little nods to the old series. We do love our cameos.
The final showdown that happens at a place I like to call “Kandy Land” felt very old west, and I dug that. Was it all a “Django: Unchained” reference? It was at least a nod, especially with Jesse blowing the place up, just like Django did to that film’s “Candie Land”.
I think this movie could be enjoyed by someone without previous knowledge of “Breaking Bad”. You start with a guy running from the cops, and end up going down the rabbit hole until he finds his way out of that life. It’s also probably the best spin-off movie I’ve ever seen, as “Entourage” and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” just don’t hold a candle here, though “Deadwood” was solid this year, I’d take “El Camino” in a landslide. The real winners will be “Breaking Bad” fans who’ve always wondered what happened to Jesse, and can now find out. They left Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill out of the movie, so we will have to wait for his own series to end to find out when, or if, he leaves Nebraska.
Rating: WATCH IT.