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Cuban Fury - Film Review

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by Gill Oscar (subscribe)
'So many worlds, so much to do, so little done, such things to be'. (Tennyson)
Published March 6th 2014
Cuban Fury or Cute and Fiery?
If I describe "Cuban Fury" as a dance movie, you'll know what to expect. Underdog battles public ridicule, lack of self-confidence and red-hot competition to achieve dancing glory.

Cuban Fury
Image appears courtesy of Studiocanal

If I say it is a classic British Rom-Com, you'll also know what to expect. Underdog battles public ridicule, lack of self-confidence and red-hot competition to win the girl of his dreams, complete with a Benny Hill-sized dose of toilet humour and smut.

Cuban Fury
Image appears courtesy of Studiocanal

"Cuban Fury" is a classic British rom-com dance movie, And what you expect is what you get. If you're a Nick Frost fan or a salsa-phile, you might love it. If you enjoy the comfortable old slippers of reworked predictability, you might find it passably pleasant. If you're none of the above, I suggest you wait until the DVD hits the weekly hire shelf.

Nick Frost ("Hot Fuzz", "Shaun of the Dead") plays Bruce Garrett, who walked away from his passion for salsa as a teenager after being beaten up by a gang of louts. Twenty-odd years later, with twenty-odd extra inches around his belly, he returns to the dance floor with the goal of catching the woman of his dreams, his new boss, after spying her in a salsa class.

Cuban Fury
Image appears courtesy of Studiocanal

Colin O'Dowd ("The Sapphires") supplies Bruce's romantic competition as his colleague Drew, though he is anything but romantic in his seductive quest. His also supplies much of the film's crassness, like a classic proposal on bended knee, couched in the bluntest of anglo-saxon terms. For me, O'Dowd's performance was the highlight of the film. He creates against-the-odds likeability as a breathtakingly brazen and essentially despicable villain to Frost's naive man-child.

Cuban Fury
Image appears courtesy of Studiocanal

The object of Bruce and Drew's attention, Julia, is undeveloped as a character, and Rashida Jones' performance ("Celeste and Jesse Forever", "I Love You, Man") is nothing noteworthy. Olivia Colman, as Bruce's sister Sam, shows more heart and more legs, as she downs shots with her brother in the bar where she works and burns the floor in the penultimate dance sequence.

Ian McShane ('Blackbeard' in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides") and Kayvan Novak ("Four Lions) both provide light and shade in character roles. McShane is controlled and contained as Ron Parfait, the dance teacher Garrett threw over as a teenager and Novak is over-the-top as Bejan, a gay Persian salsa student who befriends him when he returns to Parfait's salsa school.

Director James Griffiths and many of the supporting cast have done much of their work for television. It is little wonder then that 'Cuban Fury' plays like a rental DVD more than a big screen film. Cinematographer Dick Pope enjoys the chance to go beyond the gritty realism of his twenty year collaboration with Mike Leigh. His camera loves the flash and sparkle of the dance sequences as much as it does Bruce's sad sack moments.

Cuban Fury
Image appears courtesy of Studio Canal

The uncredited star of the film is the high-energy salsa soundtrack. It grabbed me from the opening sequence. It restored my spirits when hamminess or crassness started to bring me down. And despite the film's cheesy, predictable ending, the salsa-fest finale and closing credits had me tapping my feet and feelin' fine. Let's salsa!
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*Gill Oscar was invited as a guest
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Why? For light relief
When: Opens in Australia on 20 March 2014
Where: A cinema near you
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