Now I call this a biopic but it does play very fast and loose with the story of salesman turned bank robber Eddie Dodson. Dodson’s story is an interesting one that’s filled with hollywood celebrities, drugs and a record breaking number of robberies (sixty-four) within a nine month period. Electric Slide makes the decision to not go for an honest representation of its subject, but instead paints a portrait of 80’s glamour in which our “hero” twists the film’s narrative as he imagines himself to be a dashing film star.
When done well unreliable narrators can be cinematic gold. They provide a unique tension when we as an audience are caught up in a film’s narrative and yet don’t fully trust everything we are being told, and that’s a rather rare and special treat. Now I actually really liked how the film took film techniques and cliches and used them to point out the differences between reality, how the protagonist perceives reality and how film depicts a false form of reality. It was pleasingly subtle for most of the film and I thought it really worked. The problem with it is that it doesn’t actually wind up impacting enough on the film in the end to really carry a lot of weight – if it did I certainly wouldn’t be revealing it in this spoiler free review. It is something of a lost opportunity in that respect, but its a nicely handled aspect of the film and its approach is worthy of praise.
The film’s cast is very competent with Jim Sturgess providing some level of charisma in the lead role, despite having to mumble through all of his dialogue. Alongside him there’s recent Oscar winner Patricia Arquette, relative newcomer Isabel Lucas and Chloë Sevigny amongst others. The problem with most of the cast is that they feel wasted and miscast. Arquette and Sevigny have next to nothing to do and frankly feel like they have been thrown in just to add some prestige into the mix. Isabel Lucas similarly is just asked to waif around for the duration of the film; now she’s perfectly good at doing that but you suspect early on that she has more to give than what we are seeing on the screen. Then there is Christopher Lambert who is cast as a dangerous loanshark and he really doesn’t convince here. That’s not entirely his fault (although certainly a good part of it is) because he is served up some of the film’s most hammy and underwritten dialogue.
And that’s the problem with Electric Slide, it continuously fluctuates between strong and weak points. At one moment it is nicely playing with film as a medium and story telling device, and at others it is delivering badly written dialogue and poor plotting. It’s frustrating because there is a good film buried in here, there may even be a great one, and whilst I did enjoy my time with the film it really should have been an easier and less painful ride. It looks great and brings a really nice and personal sense of style to the story, but unfortunately those visuals too often mask an empty soul and incomplete ideas. Given some more work this could have been a lot better, but it remains an interesting curiosity.
What is the film’s greatest strength? I guess it would be the way it plays with narrative and the medium.
Its greatest weakness? The script isn’t strong enough.
Would I see it again? I don’t think so, although it would be tempting to see how well the unreliable narrator aspect works on repeat viewings.
Thanks for reading, please do fire your thoughts out in the comment box below!