Electric Man Dir. David Barras

[Dugbus Ltd.; 2012]

Styles: comedy
Others: Comic Book Villains, Spaced, Mallrats

It’s ironic that a forgery plays an important role in Electric Man, as much of the movie plays like a facsimile of a more successful film. The film has an interesting premise full of potential that is completely squandered by sitcom-level ‘zingers’ and clunky references that clutter a plot whose mechanics barely make any sense. There are literally two scenes of drawing room exposition where the protagonist walks us through everything that just happened, and my brow is still furrowed in disbelief and confusion. Feeling like someone’s spec script of Spaced, Electric Man features a workmanlike director and mostly capable actors, but the lack of a unique vision or voice removes any potential entertainment value from the film.

Deadhead Comics, run by Jazz and Wolf (Toby Manley and Mark McKirdy), is about to go out of business unless they find £5000 to pay for repairs. Meanwhile, Jimmy has just killed his brother Robert in order to sell Robert’s ultra rare edition of Electric Man #1 to rabid fanboy Edison Bolt for £75,000. Jazz and Wolf end up with the comic, but can they find a way to get the money they need without Jimmy killing them like his brother? And what about the mysterious redhead who shows up trying to entice Jazz in her own bid to get the comic — can she be trusted? And is there a way for Jazz and Wolf to keep their childhood hobby and maintain healthy mature relationships? The answers, in order: yes; kind of; and basically yes, though the movie only feints interest in this point.

Electric Man opens with Jimmy about to get beaten up for not paying his bar tab when it’s revealed he killed his brother earlier that morning by chucking a toaster in Robert’s bath — all to sell a comic to some costumed character. That’s a dark and odd opening, and neither the weirdness nor darkness ever comes up again, instead devolving into sitcom patter with the occasional fantasy cutaway gag that stands out only slightly less than the fratricidal opener. Well, that’s not true: there is another weird scene in the film when suddenly Wolf reveals bike trick abilities in order to escape the clutches of his pursuers and safeguard the comic. He pops wheelies and jumps all over the place in a display of impressive skill that is never referred to or utilized before or after. It’s baffling. And more baffling still, Wolf is a comic book store co-owner who seems to know and care very little about comic books — his ignorance is essential in Jazz explaining to the audience who Electric Man is and why it’s important — and yet his “love of comics” ruined his last relationship.

Director David Barras (who co-wrote with Scott MacKay) makes sure everything is framed and shot well, and gets mostly good performances from his cast despite the convoluted mess of dialogue they often spout. Manley turns in a good performance as Jazz, his enthusiasm as a plucky nerd is infectious and he manages to improve most scenes he’s in. Manley and McKirdy have good chemistry together, but again are relegated to sub-Scrubs level banter about their crazy shenanigans.

A movie about the pursuit of a flat object by two-dimensional characters, Electric Man wastes its intriguing premise and ditches the initial dark tone in favor of bland comedy. There are multiple scenes in which comics are derided as foolish kids’ stuff, yet I would take the bizarro logic of a Silver Age child’s comic book any day over the inept plotting and dead-on-arrival punchlines of this film. It’s going to take more than some dazzling bike tricks to save this film — it’s a job for Superman Electric Man… or whatever.

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