Eddie Dodson (Jim Sturgess) is a dandyish incorrigible playboy. He parties, indulges in blow, and comes and goes as he pleases with an insouciant urbane air. While his chic antique store is a hit in L.A., even attracting local celebrities, Dodson is dead broke. Sleeping with bored and disenfranchised rich socialites doesn’t pay the bills either. His drug habit seems manageable, but what is no longer tenable is the deep debt he owes to ruthless, local loan sharks whose patience has run dry. Faced with no other options — these gangsters will rub Dodson out if he doesn’t bring their dough — the desperate but charming swindler decides to rob banks.
Charismatic and polite, with an affinity for modish velvet and a cool Stetson, Eddie’s bank-robbing approach isn’t that of adrenaline-filled violence, nor is it greedy. Instead, Eddie just pops the collar, turns on the charm, approaches the young attractive bank tellers (who all seem to have an instant crush), flashes an unloaded starter pistol, and voila, he nets a cool, few thousand. Along the way, Eddie falls in with Pauline (Isabel Lucas), a lost little girl, the heroin-chic-looking, L.A. party type, whose restless ennui and waifishness seems to define her more than anything else.
You’ve seen variations of love and lawlessness on the screen countless times. You’ve watched lovers on the run from the authorities, lovers on wild crimes spree, and the recent indie, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.” even reversed the paradigm, setting the doomed paramours exploits after the crimes had taken place, tracking the ensuing fallout. So you’ve seen this narrative a hundred times, and yet someone can always make this archetypal genre feel fresh all over again. Not here, however. You’ve never seen this story rendered so flaccid, vapid, and uninspired as you will with the deeply unfortunate “Electric Slide.”
“You know what most people think about whey they think of L.A.? Smog. When I look around, I see success exhaust,” the doofus voiceover states at the beginning and you can let the eye-rolling begin. Based on the true story of the notorious “Gentleman Bank Robber,” the real Eddie Dodson managed to evade the authorities in 1980s Los Angeles while robbing 70-something banks over the span of one year. While he may have really enamored bank tellers from Malibu to Pasadena, practically getting their digits in the process, none of “Electric Slide” feels remotely plausible. That’s OK, because as a heightened, stylish homage to the City of Angeles in the imperturbable neon-soaked ‘80s, reality is the furthest thing from the movie’s mind. But it’s really unclear what exactly the movie is thinking at all other than delivering a painfully superficial, banal, and rehashed portrait of bank robbers in love with nothing to lose.
A senseless “Bonnie & Clyde”-style riff without rhyme or reason, “Electric Slide” barely justifies its existence it’s so facile, familiar, and tedious (it’s also deeply enamored with “Breathless,” which it actually has the characters watch at the beginning of the movie; the Richard Gere version, obviously). A hollow pastiche of contrived and artificial hipness — seemingly pilfering from any decade, despite the 1980s-setting — “Electric Slide” is so bloody desperate to exhibit an air of cool it sweats out the sides with a phony, staining exhaust. Directed by Tristan Patterson (the 2011 documentary “Dragonslayer“), the ill-conceived “Electric Slide” is a garish collection of disparate ideas that attempt to capture the effortlessness of these irreverent and stylish criminals. But there are literally zero characters or plot beyond the very basics. Every character is the height of shallow, stupid, or coarse (including the leads), so any kind of identification or sympathy is gone instantly. Never much of a dynamic or interesting lead actor, Jim Sturgess’ bafflingly affected performance — a mishmash of fey, slow-witted, vaguely Southern, and possibly narcotic-induced, it’s hard to tell what he’s actually going for — is risible and pointedly insufferable. You don’t root for this pompous, half-wit character, you actively want him to get mashed by an errant tow truck on LaBrea, man.
Somehow there’s a decent supporting cast here, but lord knows why, because they have nothing to do, and much like the leads, they are one-note caricatures. Vinessa Shaw plays one of Eddie’s concerned-for-his-welfare antique store employees, Patricia Arquette is an affluent and disdainful sexual conquest, Chloe Sevigny stars as an ex-girlfriend tired of his played-out antics, and a weathered Christopher Lambert plays a gangster so grotesque-looking Mickey Rourke’s fifth plastic surgeon now feels a little less inferior about his craft. Will McCormack as one of the excruciatingly dim police offers, alongside John Doe from X, also has to deliver some of the most unbearable dialogue heard in quite some time.
Featuring songs by Suicide, Psychedelic Furs, Magazine, Gang Of Four, Iggy Pop, Depeche Mode, X, and Nick Lowe, all the vintage-hip tunes in the world can’t save this movie (nor inject it with an authentic sense of sangfroid). The score from Kevin Haskins of Bauhaus, Tones on Tail, and Love and Rockets is also monotonously one-note. Likewise, the Instagram filter technique of cinematography feels forced and unimaginative.
Insult to injury comes in the form of the two leads having zero chemistry and zero charm. Meant to be mysterious, Lucas’ character is completely undefined, therefore essentially undermining any ideas that Eddie is madly in love with her. In defense of the actress’ non-performance, she has nothing to do but look bored, and any vague longing she demonstrates is probably for a real gig. Their “love story” is also negligible. How or why they fall in love is about as important to this movie as understanding these one-dimensional pin-up dolls called protagonists (ok, she’s a poor lost little girl and he’s an airhead, that’s about all you get).
Tiresomely told, uninteresting, and turgid, “Electric Slide” is as insipid as it gets — a meaningless movie about almost nothing at all. And it’s extremely tone-deaf. When it attempts to be funny, it’s not at all, and the same applies when it tries (ever so hard) to be cool, dangerous, or sensual. “Electric Slide” is a movie based on the naïve thought that its real-life premise is interesting — that a stylish guy in the 1980s could rob myriad banks and get away with it just on his looks and persuasions alone. But the movie does nothing deeper with this concept (it’s arguable there’s not one second of subtext throughout the entire picture).
Indicative of the movie itself, there’s no clear reason why the movie is called “Electric Slide” either. It’s certainly not about the popular 1970s dance move because that would be the wrong era. So therefore, much like the movie itself, it’s just a indistinct signifier and suggestion of things that have a sense of panache because that’s about as well-defined as this lazy and contrived retread can ever hope to be. [D-]
This is a reprint of our review from the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.