Review: Sparks / Cert: 15 / Director: Christopher Folino, Todd Burrows / Screenplay: Christopher Folino / Starring: Chase Williamson, Ashley Bell, Clancy Brown, William Katt, Jake Busey, Clint Howard / Release Date: April 7th
Adapted from Folino’s graphic novel of the same name, Sparks is a low-budget, gritty, noir superhero story that is a delightful change of pace from the big summer superhero blockbusters that we’ve become accustomed to. Not to say that those epic extravaganzas are a bad thing, it’s just refreshing to see somebody make something so fulfilling for such a relatively small cost – and that is where Sparks comes into its own.
Set in the 1940s, the story follows titular hero Ian Sparks (Williamson) in a tangled web of action, romance and atmospheric charm. After a horrific accident leaves Sparks orphaned, we get to see the young hero-in-waiting taking his first baby steps towards protecting the innocent. During this time, we also get to meet Sparks’ supportive grandmother (Lynne Marie Stewart) and a concerned police officer, Archer (Brown). Sparks is a hero who has no superpowers to speak of, just the ability to fight the good fight and take one hell of a beating. Starting in his local town, taking down minor thugs, it’s not long before Sparks sets his sights on something bigger.
Graduating to the streets of the big city, Sparks begins to team with Lady Heavenly (Bell), a sultry, sexy ass-kicker who quickly becomes Sparks’ significant other. Joined by Sledge (Busey), the team do their best to keep the streets clean, although the apparent reappearance of the twisted, perverted Metanza (Katt) sends Sparks off the deep end, losing everything that he holds dear and sending him down a path of self-destruction. Out to clear his name and erase his demons, Sparks’ story literally unravels before our eyes as he tells his tale to the Daily Chronicle’s editor (Howard).
Sparks succeeds where so many bigger budget movies fail – anybody remember The Spirit? – in that it manages to balance style and substance. Aesthetically pulling from the likes of Sin City and Watchmen, the movie is a unique entity. Using low-fi SFX work to give a gritty, rough-around-the-edges feel, Sparks makes the best of what it has. With a well-delivered, intriguing story combined with multi-layered characters and a tone that makes Gotham City’s gargoyles look like singing angels, Sparks is the superhero genre’s dirty little secret.
Full of great performances from a fantastic cast, particularly the ever-charismatic Clancy Brown, Sparks is as stylish as it is disturbing, and Foloni and Burrows’ film delivers a villain as sadistic as they come. Throw in a Hans Zimmer-esque score and you have a gem of a film. Whereas other low-budget superhero flicks, like All Superheroes Must Die, often come off as low in quality, Sparks gets the most out of everything at its disposal, creating a massively satisfying and enjoyable movie that’s worth hunting down.
Extras: Audio Commentary / The Making of Sparks / Deleted Scene.