views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Electric Man (12A) - Director and Cast Q&A
Prince Charles Cinema
8th July 2012

★★★☆☆

Superman wasn't initially as supremely powerful as he later became. At first he couldn't fly, wasn't nigh-invulnerable and didn't have a set of powers for every occasion (super-ventriloquism, anyone?). But that was okay, because from Action Comics #1 he was strong, honourable and good and no-one could claim otherwise.

Electric Man, the first feature from director/co-writer David Barras and co-writer Scott Mackay, is much the same. Is it perfect? Can it fly through the heart of a yellow sun with nary a scratch? No. But it is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Or, you know, something to do with electric powers that I can't really think of.

I brought up Action Comics #1 because that was initially to be the rare comic which was the focal point of the Scottish comedy caper movie, but publishers DC would have wanted too much money. Still, as always, necessity is the mother of invention and some beautiful, smart opening credits featuring original creation Electric Man set the picture's tone brilliantly.

And it's one of geeky joy from start to finish. Whether it's a delightful subversion of the Mexican stand-off trope, the Spaced-inspired directorial affectations or the Maltese Falcon twisty-turny plot, it wears its influences on its sleeve. And that's no bad thing, because while not yet up to the level of those heavy hitters, there's a lot of fun to be had in the larger-than-life characters and silliness among the stunning Edinburgh locations.

The plot follows comic shop owners Jazz (Toby Manley) and Wolf (Mark McKirdy) who need to pay £5,000 to their landlord (a lovely turn from stand-up comedian Andre Vincent). Meanwhile, Jimmy (Derek Dick aka Fish from Marillion) wants to sell the first issue of Electric Man and contacts obsessive fan Edison Bolt (Mark McDonnell), but their deal is foiled by femme fatale Lauren McCall (Jennifer Ewing). As only happens in these types of film, the comic ends up in the hands of the good guys and with the help of Wolf's estranged girlfriend Victoria (Emily Lockwood) they find themselves embroiled in the usual double-crosses, secrets and lies.

While frequently funny, the dialogue isn't sometimes as snappy as it wants to be. It's not Spaced or Clerks, but owes a lot to them. Every now and again the script is also stymied by slightly dodgy editing or the actors getting a touch of the woodens. The plot too is sometimes a little too contrived, with one particular leap of logic featuring bubblegum a little too much to take - but if you allow some room for pastiche or parody, it's not too huge an issue.

The love of the comics medium and attention to detail is second-to-none. From the name of Electric Man's alter-ego (also Edison Bolt) to his ridiculous but spot on catchphrase "Like a bolt of lightning!" it's done with a keen eye, love and affection. And coming from another comic obsessive, that's high praise.

The cast are just as tight. Manley is a handsome but believably desperate leading man, playing well with both McKirdy and Ewing. McKirdy's comic delivery is probably smoother than his companion's, as a charming, laid back fool. A seductive Ewing and uptight Lockwood hold the female end up strongly, each getting a share of the laughs. However it is the imposing Dick and McDonnell as the pathetic, hilarious Bolt that really steal their scenes.

BAFTA-nominated composer Blair Mowat shows exactly why he got a nod from the Academy with his skillful and subtle score. Whether a conscious decision or not, it apes caper movies and superhero movies without being overbearing (or as I prefer to call it, Murray Gold). His talents aren't one-note (no pun intended) and he can turn his hand to chase scenes and romantic scenes with equal aplomb.

There's no denying the talent involved in the production and a Q and A following the film proved even more the creators and cast are genuinely funny guys. To pull off a first film this well for a mere £50,000 is a success of Herculean (if not Superman-ian) proportions. And to conclude an already tortuous - and tortured - analogy, the cast and crew behind Electric Man may not be soaring yet, but it won't be long before they're up, up, and away.

Electric Man was released in the UK on 29th November 2012.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Northern, Piccadilly)



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