Reviewed by Ian Forbes
Over 225 years after America threw the British off its land, it seems of late that we’re rethinking that decision. Whether it’s Harry Potter, James Bond, Doctor Who, or even all the hoopla stateside for the recent Royal Wedding, us Yanks can’t seem to get enough English charm, wit, or accent. One of my personal favorite British imports has been the work of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright. First introduced to them in Shaun of the Dead, I then learned of the amazing television series Spaced, and reveled in their follow-up collaborations of Hot Fuzz and The World’s End.
Simon Pegg has become quite well known to American audiences via supporting roles in Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible franchise and as Chief Engineer Scotty in the reboot of Star Trek. Edgar Wright might not be a household name but he’s currently directing one of the upcoming Marvel movies, Ant-Man, so maybe then audiences on this side of the pond will start to appreciate his genius and then discover his earlier work that way. Sort of left out in the famous train has been Nick Frost.
He’s generally been Pegg’s sidekick, though if you really follow his career you know that’s not quite true (Kinky Boots for example). And with Cuban Fury getting released stateside, he’s now got a bona fide starring role and is in the spotlight all by himself (though be on the lookout for a very fun and very quick cameo by someone I’ve already mentioned).
Frost plays a good guy who’s simply lost confidence and momentum, relegating himself to a safe, almost mundane life with a prescribed trajectory designed to avoid extreme lows by not taking the risks for the extreme highs. His quasi-arch nemesis, played by Chris O’Dowd, is the cocky jerk at work who fancies himself a ladies man. He also doesn’t mind taking each and every opportunity to take Frost down a peg whenever he feels threatened because all of that bravado is a clear and obvious smokescreen for the insecurity that lies beneath all bullies.
The two find themselves in a competition for their new boss, played by Rashida Jones. But how will they earn her affection? It just so happens she’s a salsa dancing enthusiast. That bodes well for our reluctant hero, as he was a junior champion in the discipline. However, he gave that life up as a teenager after a traumatic event forced him to retreat into the shell in which he now resides.
The film unfolds as he finds his courage, embraces his passions, and if you don’t know how the movie is going to end from being told the basic premise, I’ve got a bridge I can sell you in some prime real estate.
Now, there isn’t too much to write home about when it comes to the technical aspects of the movie. The direction is fine, the cinematography is okay, the production value adequately sets the stage for what needs to happen, and even the script is largely paint by number for the genre. However, what makes this movie the most fun I’ve had in a theater in 2014 are the actors.
Frost doesn’t really do anything I haven’t seen before but he’s excellent in this type of role. O’Dowd plays a great jerk, though he lacks the usual leading man type looks that help to reinforce the disparity between the character he’s playing and the underdog; but still his comedic sensibility makes up for that element. Rashida Jones is a perfect fit into this quirky world, as she’s got a seemingly uncommon talent these days for pulling off being attractive, smart, AND funny. This is where the script does get some credit, as most typically pigeon hole the female lead as having at best two of those three traits.
Still, what sets the movie over the top is the inclusion of two actors. When I say that the first is Ian McShane, I doubt that surprises anyone. He’s a phenomenal actor and it’s always fun to see him counterbalance the intimidation he innately exudes with a softer side. The big surprise of the movie though is Kayvan Novak. I’d see him before in the excellent Four Lions but here, he’s almost literally the life of the party. His delivery is razor sharp and armed with some very sharp dialogue (it’s the plot development where I’m really at odds with the script), I haven’t laughed that hard out loud in a theater since the last Nick Frost movie I saw, 2013’s criminally underrated, and aforementioned, The World’s End.
Now of course, comes the question. Should you see it? Well, unless you simply cannot stand formulaic underdog movies, or somehow find British accents unintelligible, then I’d say this is the clear choice for movie of choice in theaters right now. 2014 certainly hasn’t been a buffet of choice when it comes to your movie dollars but there’s something so winning, charming, and funny about Cuban Fury that it reminded me why I like to go to the movies. Maybe it’ll do the same for you too.
Cuban Fury was directed by James Griffiths and is rated R for language and sexual references.
Follow Us On: