Strictly Sinatra

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

As a homage to the great man, Peter Capaldi has done a wonderful job. Even amongst Glasgow's hard men there is a streak of sentimentality, as when Chisholm (Brian Cox) waxes lyrical on the quality of Frank's bespoke tailoring.

The great man is Bill Forsyth. Capaldi was involved as an actor in the famous rabbit-on-the-road sequence from Local Hero. Now, with Strictly Sinatra, he returns the compliment by writing and directing a film that Forsyth would have been proud to call his own.

Tony Cocozza (Ian Hart) is a grown-up Gregory, except crooning's his game, not football. He's a goof, really, but a friendly goof, who puts on a dicky bow and strangles Rat Pack ballads in fading pub venues across the city, accompanied by a lame piano player (Alun Armstrong), who knows full well that Tony's dream of winning a national TV talent contest will come to nothing.

The movie is less to do with Tony's ambitions as his inadvertent involvement with the Mob. The humour is more organic than Mickey Blue Eyes, which had Hugh Grant's upper-class smoothie wrapped in the arms of the New York Mafia.

Capaldi is playing with the concept of nostalgia. Tony's adoration of all things Sinatra is based on myth, as is Chisholm's bad guy persona, stolen from Edward G Robinson and the Thirties gangster image. When Tony meets Irene (Kelly Macdonald) in the casino, she's the cigarette girl. How many Hollywood stars started right there, in a night club, with that "tray of death"?

Although studied with influences, this is no pastiche. Bill's hand on Peter's shoulder leads him to the Hart of the matter, which is Tony, the man and his dreams. A loser in the fame game, he has feelings deeply imbedded behind barriers of pretence that bring tears to his eyes. And yours, maybe.

Ever since he played John Lennon in Backbeat, Ian Hart has demonstrated an exceptional chameleon-like talent. To call him Britain's best young character actor would be no lie. He brings to Tony a bruised innocence, desperately seeking solace in success.

Alun Armstrong, who stepped in at a moment's notice after Ian Bannen was killed in a car crash a week into shooting, is sympathetic and strong, while Dundee's finest, Brian Cox, is masterly as a man welded to iconic hardness. Kelly Macdonald has retained the one thing that actors would kill for, the ability to be natural. Not only lovely to look at, she is funny and warm and takes no lip from men in shiny suits.

Reviewed on: 08 Nov 2001
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A comedy drama about a pub crooner in Glasgow who is adopted by the Mob.
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Director: Peter Capaldi

Writer: Peter Capaldi

Starring: Ian Hart, Kelly Macdonald, Alun Armstrong, Brian Cox, Tommy Flanagan, Iain Cuthbertson, Una Maclean

Year: 2001

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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