Out to prove that the comic-book movie needn't be mega-financed behemoths, the scrappy superhero-noir indie "Sparks" busks its 1940s saga of dark redemption with considerable visual energy, if not always coherence or competence.
Starting with wounded, wanted vigilante Ian Sparks (Chase Williamson) barging into a newspaper to report his own murder, the movie flashbacks — and flashbacks — to unravel a convoluted story stemming from a superpower-bestowing meteorite crash, Sparks' teaming with masked crime fighter Heavenly Lady (Ashley Bell), their search for a serial killer and the tragic early deaths of his parents.
As in a lot of noir, the good do bad and no one is who they seem, but the torturing psychopath angle feels like pandering to crude modern tastes. As for the comic-book elements, shape-shifting and invincibility naturally have compromising downsides yet also make for convenient get-out-of-plot cards.
Brash and budget-minded, directors Christopher Folino (adapting his own graphic novel) and Todd Burrows use the "Sin City" presentational model to invigorate "Sparks": panel-like framing, stylized CGI and acting that recalls parodies of hard-boiled movies instead of the real thing. The overall effect is of something haphazardly adult and childish in equal measure.
"Sparks." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. At Laemmle's Noho 7 in North Hollywood.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times