The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Electric Slide

Electric Slide is based on the true story of Eddie Dodson, a gentleman bandit connected to more than 70 bank robberies in the early 1980s. While most biopics tend to follow a fairly traditional route, this one goes for something quite different. It attempts to tell the story in a style that captures the New Wave vibe that was going on at the time he was committing his crimes. That's a risky, if admirable, approach. However, writer/director Tristan Patterson is so out of his depth that he has instead crafted a film of massive emptiness, one that is virtually unwatchable.

Jim Sturgess plays Dodson, the proprietor of a swanky furniture store in California. He likes cocaine, partying, and having sex with a variety of women. Patricia Arquette and Chloe Sevigny play two of his conquests. Eddie's lifestyle lands him in debt to gangster Roy Fortune (played by Christopher Lambert, doing his worst Christoph Waltz imitation). Fortune is the kind of guy who has a harem of women, all dressed in identical blonde wigs and gold bikinis. Threatened with grievous bodily harm if he does not make financial amends, Eddie decides to rob banks. He does so by dressing up in his trendiest duds and flirting with the prettiest teller he can find before brandishing his gun. The robberies are always topped off by some kind of smooth-talking compliment, such as “You're perfect.” Isabel Lucas plays Pauline, Eddie's newest girlfriend, who drives the getaway car and becomes a beneficiary of his new criminal lifestyle. They get off on the robberies, treating them more as fashion statements than as crimes. The two even create mix tapes to listen to on their way to the banks.

Electric Slide wants to be a New Wave Bonnie & Clyde, but it lacks the substance that made Arthur Penn's 1967 film an enduring classic. Every scene here is steeped in so much artifice that it obliterates any dramatic momentum. Patterson is clearly invested in creating a sense of style, yet he does so by embracing the same insipid hipster posturing the film is supposedly criticizing. The dialogue is purposefully stilted, the costumes are distractingly gaudy, New Wave songs are shoved into virtually every frame, and the performances are needlessly mannered. (Sturgess is directed to deliver every line like he's either stoned or participating in one of those Californians sketches they do on Saturday Night Live. He gives an excruciating performance.) Electric Slide is so consumed with trying to be “cool” that it never even remotely engages the viewer. Instead, it quickly becomes off-putting.

Obviously, Eddie's methods of theft are unusual. Instead of intimidation, he goes for a weird form of flattery, as though the bank tellers should be honored that someone so dapper chose them to steal from. There's got to be some deep psychology at work there, but the film never even tries to look for it. Zero effort is expended attempting to examine why he is the way he is. Patterson envisions Eddie as an antihero. That only works if you feel drawn to the person in question. Eddie Dodson is obnoxious and shallow - much like the film itself - so following him for 95 minutes is a deeply unpleasant chore.

Similarly, the connection he has with Pauline is left unexplored. She just sort of shows up and we're supposed to believe that they have some magical bond between them. (Isabel Lucas gives a performance that brings new meaning to the word “blank.”) We get no indication of what draws them together or what they get from one another. Because the characters are presented as fashion plates rather than human beings, it becomes impossible to care whether they get caught. What, then, are we left with? Absolutely nothing.

Patterson can't even make the idea of robbing banks exciting. Electric Slide has a plot that simply repeats the same beats again and again, with no accumulation of drama. But hey, the director thinks he can create tension by periodically flashing numbers up on the screen that count backwards from 10 to 1! Electric Slide is, plain and simple, self-consciously arty dreck of the most agonizing variety.

(1/2 star out of four)

Electric Slide is rated R for language, some sexual content/nudity and brief violence. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.

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