Film: Breaking Bad

Cast includes: Bryan Cranston (Little Miss Sunshine) as Walter White, Anna Gunn (Enemy of the State) as Skyler White, Aaron Paul (The Last House on the Left) as Jesse Pinkman, Dean Norris as Hank Schrader
Creator: Vance Gilligan (The X-Files)
Genre: Drama | Crime | Dark Comedy | Noir (TV 2008-20013)

The unemotional way Walt receives his diagnosis of Stage-3 lung cancer belies the simmering resentment he feels at yet another cruel turn of fate. His rage is so deep that all Walt can do is struggle to keep it contained. Life is so unfair. At first glance, Walt is a mediocre chemistry teacher in an Albuquerque high school. While he loves chemistry, he’s at a loss to inspire his students. We don’t really understand why Walt struggles as an underpaid high school teacher, when he could have excelled in a more suitable career. We’ll have to be patient… the details will be filled in as the story develops. Nor do we understand why Walt chooses not to tell his family about the cancer diagnosis.

As it happens, Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank, is a gung-ho drug enforcement agent. And while watching TV coverage of Hank’s latest meth lab raid, Walt notices the money on the table. He takes up Hank's offer to ride along and by chance learns the identity of a dealer who narrowly escapes arrest. It’s Jesse Pinkman, a former student of Walt’s. When Walt reconnects with Jesse and offers to partner in a meth cooking enterprise… “it’s just basic chemistry”… it sets in motion an involved and convoluted story.

The complex relationships between characters are what drive many of the plot twists and turns. Each main character is so well nuanced that we feel we know them personally. Add to this an amazing production that gives each program a delicious creepiness factor. Early on, I wondered whether the programs would devolve into formulaic mush. After all, some of the early episodes have events that are so violent and disturbing… in a film noir kind of way… that they seemed like a hard acts to follow. But as the story unfolds, we become more vested in each character and care what happens to them. Happy endings appear to be out of reach for everyone. The writers have truly mastered the art of the near miss. When events are so bad that there’s no way out, Walt and Jesse escape by the skin of their teeth. When things are finally going well, something happens to derail everything. Don’t look for judgments on morality issues… these are criminals engaged in criminal activities. Yet Walt didn't start out as a criminal... he broke bad. It’s bold, dark and at times, downright disgusting. But that said… it’s very, very well done.

popcorn rating

4 popped kernels

Noir TV that’s bold, dark and at times downright disgusting... very well done

Popcorn Profile

Rated: TV4-314 (Violence, sexual content, drugs)
Primary Audience: Young adults
Gender Appeal: Macho
Distribution: TV & direct to video
Mood: Somber
Tempo: Zips right along
Visual Style: Nicely varnished realism 
Character Development: Engaging
Language: Irreverent
Social Significance: Pure entertainment

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