Four Dead Batteries is an indie comedy that has done very well in the festival circuit and is now available on DVD. The four dead batteries in question are four improv comedians in New York whose love lives are as chaotic as their comedy routines. Nick is cheating on wife Hannah with a coworker, Merida the principle at the high school where he teaches. When she dumps him and when his wife finds out his life unravels. Harold is happily married but his wife Judy has decided its time to procreate, Harold wants absolutely nothing to do with children. Henessy obsesses, with restraining order zeal, about his recently departed fiancé Liz. Chronic player Patrick seems to be developing feelings for his most recent conquest Shea. It’s a lot of characters and situations to keep track of, but it’s by no means the intertwined tale of star crossed lovers. Instead the movie is driven by excellent dialogue and imminently flawed characters. It all blends together with mixed success.
The performances are generally good if uneven and the best scenes involve the four men discussing things after performances, in bars, or at lunch. There are a lot of great one liners often delivered with misogynistic glee, but it’s funny, and realistic without being unnecessarily cruel. It’s all believable because writer/director Hiram Martinez has delivered characters that are flawed and the film mines their foibles for great comedy. Because the script so revolves around the characters it feels unresolved at moments and occasionally Martinez lets his fondness for clever dialogue get in the way of the story. But if you are looking for a different movie that is rich with humorous dialogue and good characters then this is a great flick for you.
The DVD extras on Four Dead Batteries include some exceptional learning materials for the independent film maker. First there is the film itself, shot on DV it’s not spectacular looking, much of the shots are dark and washed out, conflicting with the comedic tone. Rather then a handheld ‘cinéma vérité’ style used in a lot of similarly budgeted films most all of the shots are set, or use a jib or dolly to great effect giving the feel of a larger budgeted film. The second thing that sets this DVD apart are the commentaries. There is the usual cast commentary, but then Martinez also includes a filmmakers commentary with his production team, in it he explains most of their decisions and the genesis of the film. But wait! That’s not all! Martinez throws in an advise track in which he interviews key people about the nuts and bolts of indie filmmaking, it makes for a very pragmatic learning tool. Perhaps one of the best things about the movie that I haven’t mentioned yet is the soundtrack. Performed by the Hot Club of Cowtown, a western swing band from Austin, the music adds a great dimension the total package. ‘Four Dead Batteries’ is a good movie and the extras on the DVD make it worth the price, check it out.