Mar 242014

He once had fire in his feet and salsa in his soul, but a run in with some local bullies cut short a promising dancing career. Decades later he’s compelled to dance again. Does he still have what it takes to burn up the dance floor? My review of Cuban Fury after the jump.

Bruce Garrett (Nick Frost) and his sister Sam (Olivia Colman) were young salsa champions, they loved to dance and won multiple competitions, until on the night of the nationals, Bruce was beaten up by local bullies and made fun of because he danced. Humiliated and ashamed, he walked away from his passion and never danced again. Cut to the present day and middle-aged Bruce is working in a nondescript engineering company. His company has just hired a new sales manager, Julia (Rashida Jones) and Bruce thinks she’s something special. Unfortunately so does Drew (Chris O’Dowd), the misogynistic office jerk and constant thorn in Bruce’s side. Bruce however, might have an in; he discovers that Julia is an avid salsa dancer and suddenly he has a reason to put on his dancing shoes again.

Nick Frost cuts a rather sympathetic figure on the dance floor. An unfit, down on his luck, complete underdog, you can’t help but love and embrace him. He’s a teddy bear with a heart of gold, and the perfect person to draw you into this somewhat unoriginal story. Frost plays the role straight and his size is not used for comedic fodder; he’s a man who likes a woman and wants to reignite his love of salsa dancing in hope of winning her over. Of course as he finds his feet on the dance floor once again, he also finds a steadier footing in his everyday life. The talented Rashida Jones is thoroughly underutilised  in the film and I wish her character had been given a little more screen-time to develop, rather than just being the likable, but hardly unique love interest. Supporting characters such as Ian McShane as the weathered coach and the always charming (and extremely underrated) Olivia Colman as Bruce’s sister are good fun to watch and interact well with Bruce’s character. Coleman in particularly is amusing, a breath of fresh air and realism in a sometimes sentimental film.

With its toe-tapping music, enduring lead and amusing story, Cuban Fury should have been a home run. Unfortunately, the character of Drew, played by Chris O’Dowd, stops it from being so. Drew is the bully, the office jerk who teases geeks and chats up women with sleazy one-liners and greasy looks. This character goes beyond sleazy however, and is at times quite revolting. Some of the lines he spouted about Rashida Jones’s character actually made me feel quite uncomfortable, and to what end? We already disliked him and understood he was an awful person. There was no need for the character to go that far, or for O’Dowd to play it up so much. This is a rare miss for the actor who I have mostly admired until this point.

I’ll watch Nick Frost in anything and Cuban Fury has further cemented his place as one of the most entertaining and likable actors currently working. See it for Frost and the fantastic salsa music. Just block your ears when O’Dowd is on-screen.
By Sam McCosh

The Facts

Director: James Griffiths
Writer(s): Jon Brown
Starring: Nick Frost, Chris O’Dowd, Rashida Jones, Ian McShane, Olivia Colman
Runtime: 98 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: March 20 2014