Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: James Griffiths
Stars: Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Ian McShane, Chris O’Dowd, Kayvan Novack, Olivia Colman, Rory Kinnear.
Beefy comic Nick Frost is best known for his work alongside Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright in the so-called “Cornetto trilogy” (Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, and last year’s disappointing The World’s End), but here he branches out on his own for this formulaic, cliched and somewhat predictable romcom. Nonetheless, Cuban Fury is likeable enough crowd pleasing romcom, that will appeal to those who liked Shall We Dance? and Baz Luhrmann’s flamboyant and dazzling Strictly Ballroom.
Frost plays the downtrodden Bruce Garrett, who, as a teenager, was a salsa dance champion along with his sister. But on the eve of a national championship, Bruce was picked on by a group of bullies who taunted him about his sexuality and forced him to eat the sequins off his costume. Bruce quit dancing altogether then, and his life has been filled with a sense of regret and emptiness ever since.
Twenty-five years later, Bruce works in a small engineering firm, but he seems to be lacking any real energy or enthusiasm for life outside the workplace. He hangs around with a couple of his loser mates, and at work puts up with the taunts and sexual innuendo of his sleazy colleague Drew (Chris O’Dowd, from Bridesmaids, The Sapphires, etc), a self-proclaimed pantsman. But then a new boss arrives at the firm in the form of pretty American Julia (Rashida Jones, from hit comedy series Parks And Recreation, etc), and Bruce is instantly smitten and wants to get to know her better. But he lacks the confidence to approach her until he learns that she also has a passion for salsa dancing.
Bruce is inspired to track down his former mentor and dance teacher Ron (Deadwood‘s Ian McShane) to learn a few moves and shake the cobwebs off his old routines. But he also has to compete with Drew for her affections, which results in a funny, man-to-man dance-off smackdown in the company car park.
Cuban Fury is the debut feature film from director James Griffiths, best known for his work on tv series Episodes, but he brings some energy and sly humour to the material. This is also the debut feature film script from tv writer Jon Brown (Misfits, Mongrels, etc), and it is full of some wonderfully politically incorrect humour, one-liners and sly humour. There are also some energetic dance sequences and some infectious music on the soundtrack.
Frost has an appealing everyman quality that suits his character here, but he also manages to project a sense of vulnerability and regret. O’Dowd is great as the sleazy Drew, and he delivers some stinging put downs. But it is the peripheral characters who make the biggest impression on the material, especially Kayvan Novack (Four Lions, etc) who steals several scenes as Bejan, the flamboyantly gay, Fanta guzzling dance student who takes a shine to Bruce.
Rory Kinnear (Skyfall, etc) is also good and tones down his usual aggression, bringing a touch of sympathy and empathy to his roles as Gary, one of Bruce’s loser mates. McShane makes the most of a fairly thankless role as Bruce’s foul mouthed mentor and dance instructor. And Olivia Colman is also good as Bruce’s sister, who now works in a bar where she is forced to dress in colourful hula outfits. And there is a brief cameo from Frost’s sparring mate Simon Pegg.
Cuban Fury may not exactly set the screen alight, but it is a pleasant enough piece of entertainment that will send audiences out onto the street with a smile on their faces and a spring in their step.