We were talking about the highly anticipated Breaking Bad spin-off television series Better Call Saul the other day, Callaghan and I, and that got me thinking about French actor Jean Reno. Why?
I’m going to tell you.
First, if you’re unfamiliar with Luc Besson’s film La Femme Nikita and/or that T.V. series Breaking Bad, no worries! All you have to do to be engaged here is examine the image below and note that I’m not crazy. In the image, I compare a photo of La Femme Nikita’s Victor le Nettoyeur (Victor the Cleaner) to Breaking Bad’s Heisenberg. See, I have a theory about these two shadowy fictional characters (who happen to be two of my favorite shadowy fictional characters in recent pop culture history).
This is my theory: the persona of Heisenberg is a tribute to Victor le Nettoyeur.
We met Victor le Nettoyeur in La Femme Nikita back in 1990. Anyone remember him? The guy who’s called to the scene of Nikita’s job gone awry, announces himself as “the Cleaner,” then goes on to make an (ironically) atrocious mess? He’s only in the movie for about ten minutes, but within those ten minutes, he manages to steal the show in a gruesome display of dubious decision-making. I, for one, have been an ardent Jean Reno fan ever since.
Here’s a clip, but –
**WARNING! This scene from La Femme Nikita is violent and gory, so don’t watch if it’s not for you!**
…just go directly to 2:10 and watch Jean Reno as he utters two words:
(I was looking for a three-second clip that just featured him saying that, but alas, I could only find full scenes.)I think it’s a riot how he introduces himself with such gravitas!
20 years later, we meet Heisenberg in Breaking Bad. Now here’s that side-by-side of the two:
How could this be a coincidence?
The attire. The facial hair. The hats. The villainous demeanor and quirks. The most dramatic difference between the two is Heisenberg’s updated sunglasses style.
If that isn’t convincing enough, consider this:
–In 1990, “VICTOR, NETTOYEUR” dumps corrosive acid on bodies (one of them not quite dead, as it turns out) in a bathtub.
–In 2008, Walter White orders the disposal of a body using acid, and that disposal also happens in a bathtub (though Jesse chose the bathtub against Walt’s instructions) – and two years later, in 2010 (exactly 20 years post-“VICTOR, NETTOYEUR”), Walter’s become the fearsome Heisenberg, who has since established as protocol the usage of acid for body-disposal purposes in (plastic) tubs.
I don’t know about you, but I find there’s something more than a little Victoresque about Heisenberg… and I think that to use Victor le Nettoyeur as inspiration for Heisenberg was a genius move and a marvelous tribute. Well done, Vince Gilligan! Well done.
So that’s what I was thinking the other day as we were talking about the Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul. Incidentally, I’d rather call Saul than “VICTOR, NETTOYEUR,” though I’d call Jean Reno, himself, any day. Just sayin.’