Alpha Dog Productions // 2010 // 101 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // February 18th, 2012
Not everyone wants the power to change things.
Very true, some want the power to eat a delicious bowl of chocolate ice cream without suffering severe abdominal pain. But that is the Lactose Effect and the subject of another review.
Derek (Dan Poole, Route 30 and Jay (Derek Minter, Virginia) are cousins who spend their working hours climbing up antennas and repairing or upgrading them, based on the clients request. It's dangerous work but the two enjoy it.
One day Jay runs into his ex-girlfriend Tina (Ariana Almajan, Signals) at the office of their latest employer. Jay is eager to rekindle a romance, but Tina believes the past is the past. Besides Jay seems to have some anger issues that he deals with by drinking heavily. It's during a drunken incident that Jay runs into a team of super powered men who use a strange form of energy to blast his car to smithereens.
Jay begins to dig deeper, but Derek advises against it (seeing the shadowy company for what it really is). Soon both cousins find themselves trapped in an experiment that gives them superhuman powers, but also stretches their bonds of friendship and family. In the end The Photon Effect turns out to be a blessing and curse.
Next to historical epic, the superhero genre is one of the most difficult types of film an indie filmmaker can attempt. You've got to admire a independent filmmaker who tackles a genre they love but one that requires a healthy budget to pull off. Director and lead actor Dan Poole went for it with guns blazing.
The result is a entertaining film that works on many levels even when its budgetary constraints show. Poole focuses on characters and dialogue to make the film work, and it was the best way to tackle the story.
Origin stories for superheroes are a dime a dozen, and they end up being very similar. The Photon Effect doesn't break any new ground there. But Poole creates two characters in Derek and Jay that we understand and relate to. Derek is a decent guy, a bit of a hot head, but he wants to help people. Jay's basically a good guy too, but obviously has some issues controlling his anger and self-indulgence. It's that selfish streak that ends up driving the story and causing the rift between the cousins that sets up the circumstances which give them both superpowers.
By forging the friendship and camaraderie early in the film, the final half that pits the two friends against each other has more weight and makes the movie more satisfying. Poole also injects plenty of witty lines and amusing moments to keep things from getting too grim. After all, this is superhero flick and should be fun. There are great scenes where both men revel in their new powers and explore their limitations.
But there are some downsides typical of a low budget feature. Some of the acting is a bit stiff at times (although no one is horrible), and some of the sets are sparse looking. The effects lack the polish of a Hollywood film, and in some places induce chuckles instead of awe.
The DVD presentation is pretty robust. The picture was nice and clear. The sound was well balanced. For extras you get a commentary track featuring Poole, Minter and Executive Producer Doug Adams. There are three behind the scenes featurettes. You also get an alternate ending as well as some trailers for the movie.
The Photon Effect is easy to recommend for anyone looking for a new voice in the superhero genre. Poole shows he's got the skills to make a compelling film. Even if it's taking on a sequel to this movie, I'd love to see what he comes up with next.
Jay may be guilty, but the movie isn't.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Alpha Dog Productions
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 6.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Alternate Ending
* Official Site