22 years after a horrific bullying experience when he was 13, Bruce Garrett (Nick Frost) finds himself out-of-shape and unloved - trapped in a downward spiral of self-pity, repression and Nando's take-aways. Only Julia (Rashida Jones), his smart, funny, gorgeous, new American boss, gives him reason to live. But she's out of his league, he imagines. His alpha male colleague Drew (Chris O'Dawd) swoops in to fight for her attention. Luckily for Bruce, she shares a secret passion... the salsa! Bruce is once again brought face-to-face with the darkest and most powerful of his inner demons. Somehow, someway, and with a lot of hand holding from loyal sister Sam (Olivia Colman) Bruce must learn how to unshackle his dancing beast, regain his long lost fury and claim the love of his life...and he's going to do it all on the dance floor...
Review by Louise Keller:
If you loved Strictly Ballroom, you will also love Cuban Fury, an upbeat romantic comedy in which the passion of salsa dancing comes from the heart and toes tap to the infectious rhythms and beat of the music. Like Baz Luhrmann's 1993 debut film, Cuban Fury gets its head of steam by its humour and quirky characters, albeit set on a totally different backdrop. TV director James Griffiths' debut film uses the offbeat charms of its charismatic stars Nick Frost and Chris O'Dowd to entice us into the high-energy world of salsa, where confidence, self esteem and winning the girl of your dreams are the prize. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face and the tap in your toes, everyone's a winner in this crowd pleasing charmer.
By the time we meet Nick Frost's overweight, reclusive Bruce in his workplace as an industrial machinery company designer, we have learned his secret - that he was a child salsa champion, humiliated 22 years earlier, on the eve of a prestigious competition, when forced by bullies to swallow his costume sequins. Suddenly his passion is reignited when he discovers that Julia (Rashida Jones) the new marketing manager at work, is into salsa. The scene when they meet in the corridor and their name tags get tangled is very sweet. Especially as Julia's name has been misspelt as Julio. Chris O'Dowd is a riot as Bruce's cocky colleague Drew, who spits out bad-taste ejaculation jokes and makes a blatant, all-out play for Julia.
A colourful supporting cast couches the main love triangle action between Bruce, Julia and Drew, starting with a fabulous turn by Kayvan Novak as Bejan, the dashing salsa dancer who convinces Bruce to shave his chest hairs, don a fake tan and a silk shirt. Bruce's former dancing partner and sister Sam (Olivia Colman) tells him to get out of his comfort zone as she pours him shots in the bar where she works, dressed as a Polynesian call-girl while his best friend Gary (Rory Kinnear) is lost for words when confronted by a seemingly compromising situation involving Bruce and Bejan at home. There are some lovely scenes between Frost and Ian McShane, who plays Bruce's former salsa mentor as he dares his former star pupil to reassume 'the legs of a stallion and the arms of an eagle'. McShane has a great presence - and distinctive facial features - which works to the film's advantage.
There's a great dynamic between the three leads, with Frost appealing as the underdog protagonist who overcomes his fears, inhibitions and insecurities on his way to the dance floor. Jones is lovely, combining self-assurance with vulnerability while the insufferable Drew and Bruce fight for her approval. Watch out for Frost's writing partner Simon Pegg, who appears in a fleeting cameo during a hilarious sequence in the carpark in which Bruce and Drew face off salsa-style. The action comes to a satisfying and rousing finale on the dance floor, buoyed by the music and the pulse of the crowd, as emotions jostle and the rhythms find their groove. It's enough to make you want to learn salsa!
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CUBAN FURY (M)
CAST: Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O'Dowd, Ian McShane, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Olivia Coleman, Kayvan Novak, Rory Kinnear, Alexandra Roach
PRODUCER: James Biddle, Nira Park
DIRECTOR: James Griffiths
SCRIPT: Jon Brown
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dick Pope
EDITOR: Jonathan Amos
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dick Lunn
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Studiocanal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 20, 2014