Film Review: ‘Electric Man’

Finding its way into selected UK cinemas this week despite a minuscule £55,000 budget, Scottish filmmaker David Barras’ comic book/film noir homage Electric Man (2012) certainly deserves credit for its endearing lightheartedness and flashes of quality – even if the final results fail to ever really impress as a whole. Barras intentionally tried to avoid the tropes and stereotypes of traditional British independent cinema – kitchen sinks, housing estates, warring teens etc – and instead looks to Hollywood superhero movie for its inspiration. However, rather than following some Lycra-clad Adonis, our heroes here are the mortal consumers of such fiction.

Friends and business partners Jazz (Toby Manley) and Wolf (Mark McKirdy) run Deadhead Comics, a small comic book retailer situated amongst the cobbled backstreets of picturesque Edinburgh. Sadly, their current financial outlook is not quite so rosy. The boys owe their landlord (Andre Vincent) a hefty £5,000, without which Deadhead seems doomed to closure. When the coveted first issue of Electric Man – worth an estimated £100,000 – miraculously falls into their laps, their prayers appear to have been answered. However, little do the lads know that a complex web of double-crossing and deceit is about unravel before their eyes, putting them at odds with femme fatale Lauren McCall (Jennifer Ewing), Electric Man obsessive Edison Bolt (Mark McDonnell) and local thug Jimmy (Derek Dick).

Electric Man has drawn more than one plaudit for its reference-laden screenplay and geek-friendly subject matter. Whilst it lags far behind such modern masterclasses as Edgar Wright’s cult Channel 4 series Spaced and coin-grabbing box office bomb Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010), there is undoubtedly a certain charm to its dynamic central duo’s madcap antics, be they evading the watchful eyes of both Bolt and Jimmy, or placating Wolf’s domineering on-off girlfriend Victoria (Emily Lockwood).

Issues begin to arise, however, whenever Barras and his merry bunch attempt to play it straight. Though perfectly capable of knocking out a fast and funny one-liner, neither Manley nor McKirdy have the actorly heft or gravitas to convince as genuine, emotive beings. Whilst McKirdy’s Wolf is wisely (and solely) utilised as the Jack Whitehall-esque man child of the paring, Manley’s Jazz is far too wet and disappointingly lacking in charisma to warrant much investment or attention as a cautious-but-cool lead protagonist.

Kudos should go to Barras and his Electric Man for taking the road less travelled and trying to do something genuinely inventive, innovative and (perhaps most importantly of all) entertaining with a necessarily meagre budget. The end product offered up by Barras and his team may be rough at best, but at least shows far more potential for future creative prosperity than many a micro budget effort (with the exception perhaps of Keith Wright’s low-budget British zom-com Harold’s Going Stiff) released this year.

Daniel Green

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