views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The Last Sparks of Sundown (15)
Prince Charles Cinema
27th July 2015


Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen as Matt and Harvey Sparks

Photography supplied by Black Shark Media

Brothers Matt (Mark Chavez) and Harvey (Shenoah Allen) are living the Hollywood lifestyle. You know the one - out of work, unrepresented, not entirely sure where their next dollar is coming from. After borrowing a six figure sum from Rage Concern buddy Seven (Kayvan Novak), Harvey is in urgent need of cash if he wants to keep both legs. Matt's finances aren't much better than his, but the boys' grandfather has recently done them the courtesy of keeling over and left them a grand country mansion. There's a flicker of hope for the Sparks brothers yet, as they jet off to the UK to try and sell the ancestral home.

Upon landing on British soil, the boys encounter the wonderfully named Geoffrey Chicken (Miles Jupp), who becomes their agent, their friend and main source of transportation. Of course, things aren't as simple as they should be - the Sparks soon discover that "housekeepers" Lucy (Emily Bevan) and her nan, Lydia (Sara Kestelman) are pretty much part of the fixtures and fittings at Sundown House. And there's something not quite right about prospective purchaser Rupert Sword (Christian McKay) either.

Despite a shoestring budget, The Last Sparks of Sundown has been shot beautifully and features some gorgeous music by Kevin Hume. Even if you're a city dweller by choice, rolling countryside will make you ache for some greenery and quiet. Adding to this elegance is a voiceover by quintessentially English Geoffrey Palmer as Sir Buster Sparks. Palmer's reassuringly familiar voice, with just a tiny touch of grumpiness, ramps up the Brit factor. However, whilst these elements are strong and elevate the film to a certain extent, they only paper over the fundamental cracks in the writing, they can't completely mend them. The daft comedy caper style script is engaging to a point, but there are some gaping plot holes which are hard to get past, and the writing just isn't nearly as sharp as writer-director James Kibbey presumably thinks it is.

Some comedians do fare better live, and given Chavez and Allen's reputation as The Pajama Men, you can only speculate that something has been lost in the recording. The timing and delivery seem fine on screen, and yet we just don't find any of what they're saying particularly funny. Many of the jokes are admittedly a bit obvious and hammy, but in an underdog film, that shouldn't necessarily be a problem. Here it apparently is, according to the polite silence.

Geoffrey's paranoia that his heavily pregnant wife is cheating on him, the office on wheels, the Sparks' mistrust of Lucy - these become recurring jokes woven into the entire plot, cleverly serving a purpose. Yet whilst they move the action on, they don't make us laugh out loud. In some ways it's a bit like The Green Wing - entertaining and quirky, very British, yet more downright odd than instinctively hilarious.

This is very much an underdog film about a bunch of underdogs, which if anywhere should find a sympathetic audience at the Prince Charles, but will probably struggle to go much further. Like Electric Man, this is an indie film made with hardly any capital which clearly tries its best, but won't set the world on fire, no matter how much we root for it.

The Last Sparks of Sundown is released in the UK on 27th July 2015.

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