The reviews that I have done for the website so far have been material that I have bought for myself. When it comes to movies my reviews are on films and television shows that the majority of the time I had seen prior to purchasing. Being a self run and financed website my little niche of the internet is pretty darn small. To my surprise when one day on the Pop Culture Maven Facebook page I received a message from David Barras the director of the film Electric Man who had picked up one of my postcards at SDCC and was interested in sending me a copy of the US DVD release for review. The movie had been shown at SDCC in the film festival there. I was eager to get the film because I am on the lookout for off beat geekdom stuff in both print and film. While I had received the DVD a little while ago it was only recently that I was able to sit down and give the film my full attention and to give it an honest review.
The plot synopsis from the DVD is, Jazz (Toby Manley) and Wolf (Mark McKirdy) run Deadhead Comics. They owe their landlord £5,000 but they don’t have it and it seems the shop is doomed. But, when Issue No 1 of Electric Man mysteriously appears in the shop it seems their problems are solved. Far from it. Worth £100,000, the comic is being sought by a number of people who’ll stop at nothing to get it for themselves – the strange and alluring Lauren McCall (Jennifer Ewing), Electric Man obsessive Edison Bolt (Mark McDonnell) and Lauren’s Uncle Jimmy (Derek Dick), a violent thug. Add to the mix, the return of Wolf’s girlfriend Victoria (Andre Vincent) and you have all the elements for what’s been described as ‘The Maltese Falcon’ meets ‘Clerks.’
First let me say that I have worked in post production for over 12 years and have literally watched over thousands of films and television shows. From the biggest Hollywood studio productions to the super small independent productions I have nearly seen it all. When I watch a film in both big and small it’s the script that really makes or breaks a film. Because no matter what your budget is you must have a tight script and in someways the script cost is pretty much zero. If you don’t have a good script to begin with then no matter what budget you have and the quality of your cast and crew, you will never fully save a bad script. So if you pretty much have no budget to work with you need to have a really good and tight script.
Director David Barras and Writer Scott MacKay
The Screenplay by Scott MacKay and David Barras (who also directed the film) is sadly where the failure of Electric Man stumbles over itself. While I will give that the general plot idea for the film is pretty decent the execution of the script is where the biggest problem lies. While the production value of the film is OK, and the only real bright spot of the film is some of the acting. I really have to give it to Toby Manley who is really shines in the film considering what little he has to work with at times, he really brings a charm and everyman quality to Jazz. He actually make some of the inane dialog fairly believable. Mark McKirdy is pretty OK as Wolf considering his character is the buffoon of the story and really doesn’t have much to do in the story. While not nearly on the same level as McKirdy he does have good chemistry with McKirdy and plays the sidekick role pretty well. Jennifer Ewing is sometimes a little stiff but there are some times where she is able to pull a bit more out of it. I think that she is not a seasoned enough actor yet to completely overcome the shortcomings of the script. I will say she is very likable in the film and I do see some good potential in her for the future. Unfortunately Derek Dick and Mark McDonnell are pretty bland and basic as the bumbling crooks in the film and on both counts pretty uninspired.
Barras direction is pretty standard and really doesn’t bring much style to the film. While I get that the film is a dialog piece you can still have interesting visuals when people are talking. I don’t expect the camera to fly around but just make it interesting and sadly it’s not. There are some times where the film does shine but overall it just kind of sits there. The other big culprit in the disappointment department is the editing and overall pacing. First the film is way too long at 100 minutes, this film could easily be 90 minutes or less. Sadly Richard Steel’s cinematography is really flat and I was wondering why the film was matted but seemed to be framed at 1.78 and after watching the blooper reel I discovered why. There are a ton of boom mikes that pop down into the frame and that explains why the film is matted. There is no extra screen image on the side so it’s really a 1.78 picture that is just matted. A good Director of Photography should notice that while filming and I’m guessing he didn’t. The lighting is also all over the place and unfortunately the overcast nature of Edinburg does not help with the natural lighting of the film. I will give the bike chase scene is really well shot and amazingly the night chase scene is really well-lit. I just wish that many interiors were lit as well as the night scenes.
While I will give the film that the first act of the film is pretty decent but I started to have my doubts when there was the chase scene at the comic convention. It tries to do a Three Stooges type chase scene and just came off very ineffective and too goofy for its own good. Also the dialog just really goes on too long many times and the scenes just start to get longer as the film goes along. The film really falls apart in the last act because of the dreadful pacing of the film you really don’t care what happens to anyone or anything at that point. I always judge a film by the airplane crash theory. While you are watching a film that you find it’s getting bad, if an airplane crashed into the film and killed everyone in it would you care. In this case the airplane did not come to save the audience.
The quality of the DVD is OK. The menu audio is way too loud compared to the feature so be ready to adjust when going from the menus to the film. The feature quality seems to mirror the digital production fairly well. There is some noticeable artifacting and some of the indoor scenes have some minor breakup in the image. The audio is pretty much dialog and music and the mix is good for what it is. Considering the source material the DVD is overall pretty decent. The DVD includes three special features. First up is the “Making of” (22:24) that nicely covers the production of the film with lots of interviews that is pretty well done for the film of this size. It pretty much covers everything. Then there is “Composing the Score” (6:58) that interviews Blair Mowat and he discusses how he developed the score and shows some early versions of the score that were not used and explains why. This is actually pretty informative and gives a good look at how music comes together for a film. And finally there is a “Blooper Reel” (11:35) that is exactly what it sounds like.
The movie is not dreadful but it’s not very good either. While I do understand that certain things about the film suffers from the lack of budget, but a bad script and poor editing don’t do it any favors either. I really wanted to like this film because it started off fairly promising but it just fell off the rails and just became a mess after a while. I get that it had a small budget but that doesn’t excuse it from being cliché and boring. It’s a poor man Clerks that is to inside for a general audience and for the comic fan doesn’t bring anything new to the genre. So in the end I can’t really recommend spending money on seeing it but if you can say catch it on netflix or cable I wouldn’t say it’s not a complete waste of your time. But if you are interested in seeing it then that would be the way to go so that you are only out 100 minutes of your life instead of $20.00 for the DVD.