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Cuban Fury (AF)

8/10

Stars: Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O’Dowd, Olivia Colman, Kayvan Novak, Rory Kinnear, Alexandra Roach, Ian McShane, Alexandra Roach, Steve Oram, Philippe Spall, Larissa Jones, Richard Glover

Director: James Griffths

Note the release date – 14th February.

Which hints at two possibilities – Cuban Fury is likely to be either a romcom or a blood-and-bullet-soaked tribute to Al Capone and his murderous ilk.

But if you’re looking for a gory massacre, forget it.

The fall and rise of a one-time 13-year-old salsa dancing star misses out on murder, providing instead a cheerful corpse-free, feelgood comedy, ideal for a St Valentine’s Day night out or just right as a date movie.

“Salsa’s for pussies”, teenage bullies tell 13-year-old Bruce (niftily danced by Ben Radcliffe) when they beat up the natural born salsa dancer who is tipped to win the UK Junior Salsa Championships. And the abused lad hangs up his dancing shoes.

25 years later he’s badly overweight, guzzling four pots of yoghurt at a time, drenched in self pity and engagingly played by Nick Frost (who came up with the original concept for the (smartly scripted by Jon Brown) romcom.

Happily, however, he falls for his new American boss Rashida Jones and is spurred on to claim her by reclaiming his dancing shoes and his sexy salsa moves with a little help from his sister (the delightful Olivia Colman) and his former mentor Ian McShane, and with a splendid comic contribution from odious, hormone-driven colleague Chris O’Dowd…

It’s the kind of romcom that stands or falls not just by its screenplay or direction (the latter nicely paced and pleasingly balanced between pathos and comedy by James Griffiths) but also equally by its performances.

And here it scores strongly.

Frost strikes an amusing balance between overweight and fast moving (unexpectedly, perhaps, he has the moves and his dance-off with O’Dowd on the roof of a garage is a comic gem) and is far funnier and more appealing than when he is plays stooge to Simon Pegg. O’Dowd is a rotter to relish, American import Jones fits the bill nicely, while Colman adds comic spice, as does McShane whose comic takeoff of Al Pacino is splendidly cruel – and uncomfortably accurate too.

And who says you don’t learn from the movies?

How else would I have known that “incest and salsa are two very different things”?

So ignore any cineaste style searches for significance and subtext and simply sit down and enjoy yourself.

Alan Frank

UK 2014. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Colour.
98 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 09 Feb 2014