In 2006, when director Chris Paine released "Who Killed the Electric Car?" the story of GM's short-lived, battery-powered EV-1, the villains were many, but consumer apathy played its role. With "Revenge of the Electric Car," Paine's entertaining follow-up, top GM exec Bob Lutz gives much credit for the company's 180 to consumer outrage. Wall Street might want to take notice of how quickly tides can change.
"Revenge" follows the three-way race between GM, Nissan and Silicon Valley rogues Tesla Motors to bring an electric model successfully to market by centering on the three biggest personalities involved: Lutz, Nissan head Carlos Ghosn and Elon Musk, the PayPal mogul behind Tesla who goosed GM into action with his sexy gas-free sports car.
Invited "behind enemy lines" as narrator Tim Robbins intones, by GM themselves in 2007, the filmmakers gained access across the board by promising not to release the film until the cars hit showrooms in 2011. In the meantime, the global economy tanked, threatening to take the U.S. auto industry with it. The resulting roller-coaster ride, well shot and sharply paced, is so friendly to the corporate types its predecessor targeted that Nissan is sponsoring screenings.
Genuine human drama comes with the engaging side story of Greg "Gadget" Abbott, regular guy and stand-in for all the independents busily retrofitting internal combustion engines to electric propulsion in home garages. Throughout, interviews with key journalists provide context.
"Revenge of the Electric Car." MPAA rating: PG-13 for brief strong language. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. At the Nuart, West Los Angeles.