Who would’ve thought during the first season of “Breaking Bad” that Aaron Paul of all people was going to be a breakout star? Considering that the writers reportedly wanted to kill off the character of Jesse Pinkman at the end of that inaugural season, it doesn’t seem like the writers even knew what they had in their hands at that point. Fast forward to today, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that doesn’t like Aaron Paul or see big things for his future. However, if you do find one of those people, here is the movie that they need to see in order to truly appreciate Aaaron Paul’s range.
Shedding off the “young punk with a lot of issues” persona that you see in “Breaking Bad”, “Smashed”, and “Need For Speed”, Aaron Paul plays against type in “Hellion” when he steps into the role of a deadbeat father, Hollis, to a couple of misguided little boys, older brother Jacob (newcomer Josh Wiggins) and younger brother Wes (Deke Garner). See, Hollis was, seemingly, a caring father, but he left his sons to fend for themselves for weeks after a tragic accident took the life of his wife, their mother. This caused a rift between Hollis and Jacob, and it caused Jacob to lash out, and soon start gaining a bad reputation around town. The problem is that Jacob was also trying to succumb his younger brother into the same raucous behavior.
That’s the beauty of this story. Instead of focusing more on the sad sack father, it focuses more on Jacob and the trials and tribulations he goes through as he finds out the consequences of his bad behavior. As a dirt bike enthusiast, Jacob already has a mean-streak. The friends he hangs out with? A bad influence. It gets to the point where one day the kids are smashing a pick-up truck outside of a high school football game and Jacob ends up in the clutches of the law. This gets him probation at a disciplinary institute near the juvenile detention facility. Jacob knows that one more slip-up will land him in “juvi.” Does he care? The only reason he might is because he doesn’t believe anyone is better suited of taking care of Wes otherwise.
With Hollis back in the picture, Jacob finds himself hating what his father did and blaming him for all the misfortunes that have happened to their family since that tragic day. This only fans the rebellious flames inside Jacob to the point where it Wes gets taken away from his home by Child Protection Services thanks to another stupid act by the boys. From this point the movie becomes about learning responsibility, both for Jacob and Hollis.
The film is strong, relentless, moving, and surprising. It’s a grounded look at a fractured family and a love between two misguided children that were steered the wrong way. In many ways, it reminds me of the cult movie “Hesher” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. From the tough family situation to the use of heavy metal music, both films run parallel in moments that will sadden you and moments that will shock you. Josh Wiggins is incredible in his first stint as an actor. It’s brilliant to watch his portrayal of Jacob and his journey to prove that he can take care of himself and his brother. Needless to say, Aaron Paul is also excellent in his role as the deadbeat father that has a lot of love for his sons, but must gain bravery to press on without his wife.
If you’re looking for a strong drama, you should definitely check out “Hellion” whenever it finally gets distribution. Kat Candler, a fixture of the Austin film scene, and her short-turned-feature will have you feeling a full range of emotions. Come for Aaron Paul, stay for Josh Wiggins.