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Review: "Revenge of the Electric Car"

As Hermosa Beach's own electric vehicle (EV) crusader fills in for the director at the new documentary's opening, our Patch columnist was there and now offers his review of the film.

I ventured out of the South Bay on Friday to see the premiere of the new film Revenge of the Electric Car at the Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles.

I went to the 2:50 pm showing because I knew that my good friend, electric car pioneer, and would be in attendance, as well as the film's director Chris Paine.

Dency was in Chris' 2006 Who Killed the Electric Car and is one of the founding members of Plug-In America, an electric vehicle advocacy organization that grew out of the "Save EV1" and "Don't Crush" campaigns documented in the film. 

Dency's one of since 2002. He was able to buy one of the Toyota RAV 4 EVs saved from the crusher and offered for sale in 2005 (along with his long-term friend, Ed Begley Jr.).

Dency not only has gone more than 110,000 miles in that car, but he also now owns a brand new Nissan Leaf, zero emission electric car—both plug-ins are powered by the sun via .

For over a decade now, Dency has been a tireless champion on behalf of electric cars. As it turned out Friday he was back in the bully pulpit again at the Nuart. 

Chris Paine couldn't be there due to a full day of media appearances on behalf of the film and asked Dency to fill in for him answering questions about the documentary and EVs before and after the movie.

By the time I got there, motivated moviegoers in the lobby already had surrounded Dency who was deftly fielding their queries and sharing his personal EV experiences. 

After the movie it was the same thing with a different group of audience members, all of whom seemed delighted to get to talk with Mr. Nelson.

What about the movie itself?  Here's my Greenius review:

Let me start out by saying that director Paine's previous film, Who Killed the Electric Car, is one of my favorite murder mystery films. 

I put it right up there with Chinatown. It still makes my blood boil when I watch it five years later. 

We would have been well into our second decade of EVs on the road and reaped all the carbon and pollution-cutting benefits by now if the bad guys in that film hadn't literally gotten away with murder.

Revenge of the Electric Car is more of a "who's gonna do it" as opposed to a "who done it" movie, but it had me hooked from the opening.

The film follows four concurrent stories of four different men, each working against the clock and against the odds to bring electric cars to the American car buying public. 

Three of them are larger-than-life rich and famous living legends. "Mr. Detroit" is General Motor's Bob Lutz. "The Warrior" is Nissan and Renault's CEO, Carlos Ghosn, and "Rocket Man" is Tesla Motors and Space-X CEO, Elon Musk.

"The Outsider" follows the story of regular guy, Greg "Gadget" Abbott, a local Los Angeles converter of gas-powered cars into electric cars.

I found Gadget's personal battle against great adversity truly heroic, and he's the one of this fantastic four I came away admiring the most.

All four stories are fascinating, not just for the technological challenges facing the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, the Tesla Roadster high-end electric car and the Nissan Leaf mass market electric car, but because the story takes place just as the economy historically tanked.

As GM declares bankruptcy and the government ponders bailing out the auto industry, the plot takes on an unexpected sense of urgency. Even knowing the outcome didn't diminish the suspense the film generates.

There isn't supposed to be a bad guy in Revenge of the Electric Car, but I never really bought the GM deathbed conversion of Bob Lutz, famous for owning his own fighter jets, his ever-present cigar and his infamous 2008 proclamation that global warming is a "total crock of s---."

Lutz supposedly saw the light after being barraged by critical responses to his role in killing the EV 1 in 2003, but it seemed like a cynical act to me and I didn't like him any better after this film than I did after the first one. But I do like the Chevy Volt and GM's plans for more electric cars.

The movie's narration by Tim Robbins and interview segments with Pulitzer Prize-winning car reviewer, Dan Neil, and other journalists enrich the storytelling. The film's editing, music and cinematography have a polish and finesse that distinguishes Paine's work.

My only complaint is that the film isn't long enough. It runs a fast-paced 90 minutes and I was still hungry for more when it was over. Fortunately, that Friday, Dency Nelson was in the lobby continuing the story for anyone who wanted to listen.

MrEnergyCzar October 24, 2011 at 10:39 PM
I get 100 miles per dollar (100 MPD) with my Volt because I use my surplus solar energy from home and a courtesy charger at work. I drove 1,200 miles on 1 gallon the first month. My 2012 Chevy Volt test drive video is attached. http://youtu.be/jbjtKbWZ67w MrEnergyCzar
john wayne miller October 27, 2011 at 07:26 PM
Nice review. Love to see this movie play at the Hermosa community theatre. I wonder if Dency could help get it here. JW, owner of a NEV Gem electric vehicle. p.s. Hermosa has free meter parking for 0 emissions vehicles.

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