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DVD Review

DVD cover



Starring: Chase Williams, Ashley Bell, Clancy Brown, Clint Howard, Jake Busey and William Katt
Distributor: Image Entertainment
RRP: £12.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 07 April 2014

On one fateful night a meteor strikes Rochester killing hundreds. The thirteen radiation survivors develop superpowers - Ian Sparks was not one of those. When his parents are killed in a bungled bank job and their car rammed into a moving train, Sparks is determined to make the world a better place. Donning his costume, he loses more fights than he wins, until he meets Lady. She is as beautiful as she is skilled at crime fighting. On the trail of a particularly heinous villain, both are captured and Lady is violated before they are rescued. With the accusation that Sparks had failed to save her, because he fainted, his life takes a downward spiral...

Sparks (2013 - 1hr, 34 min, 20 sec) is a superhero fantasy film directed Todd Burrows and Christopher Folino, from a Folino script.

Knowing that the film was made on an extremely tight budget, I was expecting rather unimpressive fare, how wrong could I be? Whilst it is true that the look of the film is bumped up with stock footage of city flyovers, the green screen work is more than adequate. There are very few instances when you realise that what you’re looking at is fake.

The film is set in the early part of the twentieth century, not quite Dick Tracy (1990), but the cars, clothes and uniforms give a similar vibe as the early sequences in Watchmen (2009). The editing and direction add to the feeling that this was a much bigger budget film.

This is not the first film about a power challenged masked hero, where Kick-Ass (2010) played the format for laughs; Sparks (Chase Williamson) is a much darker creation which includes child murder and rape. Having lost, Lady (Ashley Bell), the girl of his dreams, to Sledge (Jake Busey), Sparks is reduced to a form of self-flagellation, using local hoods to beat him up, before he is rescued from his alcoholic degradation by Archer (Clancy Brown) who introduces him to people with real superpowers and the chance to revenge himself against the man responsible for his parents death.

This being a darker version of a superhero story, things do not go as he planned and the film provides enough twists in the story to keep your interest up. To add to the ambience the costumes are not the well sculptured suits that we are used to seeing, but something which looks like it was run up on a Singer. This look is much more in keeping with both the look of the time and of comics from that era.

For a small budget movies the cast is very good. We would expect Clancy Brown and Jake Busey to do well, both are veterans of genre films and television, but it is Chase Williamson who has to carry the movie. He was good in last year’s [2013] John Dies at the End and certainly proves that he has the acting chops to carry a whole movie.

The transfer is pretty solid, only showing minor issues with the deep blacks. The film is presented with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The disc does have extras, including an interesting full length commentary. You get a Behind the Scenes (3 min, 31 sec) which has shots of the film being made, with William Katt, who also appears in the film, talking about the genesis of the film. The only other extra is the Dave Hanson Outtake (21 sec) which would probably be funny if I had any idea of who the people he was talking about were.

It’s interesting to juxtapose this film with something like the Green Lantern (2011), which came in for such a slating. The former followed the same tired formula for introducing a new hero, whereas Sparks has a greater amount of moral ambiguity and character depth, which just makes it a better film.


Charles Packer

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