Take a Drink: anytime a character does
Take a Drink: whenever a character acts out
Take a Drink: for each plot convenience
Do a Shot: for each time a character fights
By: Matt Conway (Four Beers) –
During Breaking Bad’s great five season run, Aaron Paul became one of the most talked about actors in the industry. The Emmy Award-winning actor who starred aside Bryan Cranston made a name for himself with his great performance as Jesse Pinkman. With the show ending last October, many have expected Paul to go onto a successful career with his dynamic performance in Breaking Bad. However, his crossover into film has had mixed results.
Paul was the leading man in the Need for Speed film adaptation, which looked to have quite a bit of promise. The film turned out to be a big letdown, though, scoring very weak reviews from film critics and audiences alike. Not only that, but Need for Speed also underperformed at the box office, bringing Paul’s potential stardom into question. Paul’s first major dramatic role since Breaking Bad is in the family drama Hellion, which, despite great promise, is a largely misguided effort.
Hellion follows the Wilson family, which is going through a period of great distress. Father Hollis is still dealing with the loss of his wife, and his delinquent son Jacob continues to get in trouble. After his other son Wes is taken by Child Protective Services, Hollis and Wes have to get their act together to save their family.
For his first major performance outside of television, Aaron Paul really owns the screen. Compared to Breaking Bad, Paul’s performance is far more quiete, as he plays a father who continues to drown his sorrows and hide himself in alcohol. Throughout the film, Paul is quite convincing in the role, as his battle with his demons is done in a toned down way, which makes his struggle all the more effective.
Although Aaron Paul is the main marketable star of the film, the real star of the movie is young Josh Wiggins. Despite this being Wiggins’ first major role, he steals the screen throughout the film. In a lot of ways, Hellion is a character study about Josh’s character Jacob, who ultimately in a lot of ways is a product of his poor background. Wiggins really shows that through his performance, as his character constantly finds himself in bad situations despite his effort to improve not only his life, but the life of his family.
Hellion as a film thrives in building a sense of atmosphere. The cinematography by Brett Pawlak is quite impressive, and really is quite effective in building an impending sense of doom. Also, for a film done for a very tight budget, Hellion’s production values are quite good. Director Kat Candler uses her limited resources to her advantage, creating a visual ascetic that gives the film a gritty, unpolished feel.
While the leads here are quite convincing, the supporting cast is less than stellar. Juliette Lewis has proven to be a talented actress in films such as Cape Fear, but has very little to do here. Her character spends most of the film drifting between uptight and mildly amused, and her performance shows very little variety. The rest of the cast, played mainly by no-name actors, is also less than impressive, as they mostly came off to me as being too over the top.
These issues with the supporting cast are largely derivative of the screenplay by Candler. Aside from the two lead characters, every other character in the film to me seemed to be written as a stereotype or one dimension person. This to me was really the case with Juliette Lewis’s character Pam, which is a shame because her character is put in one of the more interesting dilemmas in the film. Seeing some insight into her character during that would have added a lot. Everyone else in the film is essentially a red-neck of sorts.
Pacing is a huge issue throughout Hellion. Throughout most of the relatively short 98 minute running time, the film meanders through different scenes,with a lot of these scenes not having a particular purpose behind them. This is especially the case towards the middle, where the film’s somewhat lackadaisical pace was honestly causing me to lose interest in the characters and their inner conflicts.
Also, some of the events in the film are a bit too over the top for their own good. Some of the ways that Jacob acts out are very exaggerated, and a bit too devious for a kid to do. Moments like destroying a random person’s car with his friends made me feel a lot less empathy for Jacob’s character. It’s one thing to act out a bit when aspects of your life are going poorly, it’s another to become a complete delinquent.
Perhaps the biggest issue of Hellion is with its final act. The final moments of Hellion are very explosive, which felt totally unnecessary for what the film was going for. Instead of trusting the characters and their conflict as a family, Candler’s script introduces a new conflict that just felt very tacked on and cliche. It makes the characters make decisions that do not fit their personas leading up to the finale, which brings the film down.
Hellion is a drama that showed great promise throughout. The performances are solid, and the concept of this family drama was a very appealing one. Despite that, director and writer Kat Candler seems a bit over her head, with the film quickly dissolving into a meandering mess that really does not go anywhere until its unimpressive final minutes. Hopefully Aaron Paul continues to find more interesting roles from here.