November 16, 2005

DVD Review: Four Dead Batteries

This is a good example of what a low budget indie film can be. It is a fun, quirky little film that is completely dialog driven and has a good understanding of what it wants to do, and everyone involved is in on it. That is not to say that it is perfect by any stretch, but the pluses outweigh the negatives.

Four Dead Batteries is a chick flick about guys. Four guys in varying stages of relationships and life philosophies. Watch them discuss their love lives, often in graphic detail, and their insecurities as they try to make heads or tails of themselves. It is a journey of discovery as their emotional maturity comes to a head.

The movie reminds me a lot of Kevin Smith's style of dialog which, at times, is more epic than the characters probably deserve, while the camera sits unobtrusively shooting the action. In addition to the stylistic similarities, I found the four guys to be reminiscent of Smith's characters. Harold reminds me of Dante (from Clerks), from his mannerisms and constant state of worry. Patrick is like Randall (also from Clerks), not really heartless, but does think a lot about himself and his own needs. Hennessy can be likened to TS (from Mallrats), he is neurotic and obsessed with the girlfriend who just left him. Lastly, there is Patrick, who I can't come up with an analogy for, although there is something very familiar about him.

There are four story threads which weave throughout the running time, brought together by camaraderie of the friends and their involvement in an improv comedy group, The Four Dead Batteries. Harold is dealing with his wife's desire to have a child, which throws him into fits of unreadiness, while Patrick becomes infatuated with an enigmatic young woman who may be able to cure him of his philandering ways at a most inopportune time. Hennessy frets about getting over his ex, and wondering if he was ever loved, while Nick is suffering through a loveless marriage and strikes up an affair with the principal of the school at which he teaches.

A blunt edge surrounds the words espoused by our cast, alternatingly biting and sweet. Big Hollywood should take a cue from these small films, they could learn a thing or two about writing characters that can connect with an audience, ones that do not pander to the masses and may have a little more depth.

Like I mentioned earlier, this isn't perfect. Some of the acting is below par, and it slows down at a few points. I also think it would have been better focus a bit more on the supporting cast, none of the women seemed to be all that deeply written, the seeds are there. Perhaps if the focus was pared down to two of the characters. A pair of films, one about Hennessy and Patrick, the other about Harold and Nick. That way we may be able to dig a little deeper into their issues.

The movie was written and directed by first time feature maker Hiram Martinez. Overall, it is a successful effort, he is adept at writing dialog and creating interesting characters. It will be interesting to see what he comes out with in the future. On another note, the music is fantastic. It was provided by The Hot Club of Cowtown, a band that describes its music as hot jazz and western swing. It is different and really fits the tone of the film.

Video. The indie nature is exposed here, lighting is a little inconsistent and the colors are not terribly vibrant. However, it does look good considering the source. I can point out problems, but they are all minor considering what was accomplished.

Audio. It does a decent job, but it has an odd sound at times, a little echoey. It does a good job translating the dialog driven soundtrack.

Extras. A nice compliment of extras are included.
-Making of Featurette. A 9 minute featurette is included, and it is a pretty good watch. It talks about how the struggled to get it made and where they started as local commercial makers.
-Outtakes and Bloopers. Over 5 minutes of the cast and crew messing lines and shots, it shows them having a lot of fun on the set.
-Three commentary tracks. I sampled each of them, but haven't listened to them all.
-First Commentary. This one is from, the filmmakers and gets into the writing process and location shooting. Lots of information given, and a fun listen.
-Second Commentary. Next up is the cast. This one is also pretty good as they discuss days of the set and how they went about their parts.
-Third Commentary. This one is not so much a commentary as it is a series of interviews lasting the running time of the film. It is all about how to get into making low budget movies, how to get funding, hiring crew, all that you need. This is interesting and a unique use for a commentary.

Bottomline. Not the best indie, but still one that is well worth your time. It is an interesting Kevin Smith/Woody Allen type hybrid relationship comedy. The production values are exposed by the low budget nature, but the writing and characters are compelling enough to carry you through.



Post a Comment