Gene Kelly, Patrick Swayze, Nick Frost?!? You heard me. To paraphrase Shaun of the Dead - Can I get, any of you c*nts, a salsa dance? The very prospect of Frost's portly, hirsute figure carving up dance floors with his emblazoned one and a half inch heels is enough to prompt a wry smile. When young salsa dancing savant Bruce (Frost) experiences a life altering traumatic assault he retreats inward; abandoning his passion, reserved to mediocrity day job monotony. When a new boss Julia (Rashida Jones) arrives on the scene with a passion for salsa, he recaptures his youthful exuberance for dance and it changes the rhythm of his life.
Director James Griffiths and writer Jon Brown want to show you the drab, Groundhog Day existence of an unfulfilling day job. It's a colourless, clinical office meeting rooms, death by powerpoint and unfunny coworkers like Chris O'Dowd's Drew. Dance is the means to define yourself, the heartbeat of Bruce's world. And Griffiths and Brown (and Frost as it was his story idea) make it the battle ground for Bruce (Frost) and Drew (O'Dowd); who immediately jumps in to cut Bruce's grass once he sees that he's interested in Julia. Watching these two hilarious men have a salsa fight is just gut-bustingly great. The tightrope between the sincere and the absurd of this film is walked quite well, but there are some moments that they're trying to bring you back to sincerity and you can't shake that image of Frost wearing a sequinned, semi buttoned shirt.
Frost's Bruce is a verbal punching bag. Whether it's the verbal parrying from his best friend Gary (Rory Kinnear) or the constant barrage from the insults from his prat of a colleague (O'Dowd). Frost has the heart to take it and you're always going to be rooting for him to win the day. It's actually great to see Frost strut with the swagger and confidence of a dancer as he's beginning to find his feet. We all know how good Frost's comedic muscles are; how is his dancing? Pretty great actually. He kicks out those pirouettes, shimmies those shoulders and may have you attempting to emulate those moves in your seat. There are a few moments - for the more extreme dance manoeuvres that Frost may have had some assistance in the form of a stand-in but for the most part he's burning up those floor boards.
Chris O'Dowd is the best kind of pest, managing to walk the line infuriating and hilarious. Jones' Julia is very much the straight woman here, for the most part oblivious to all advances and affections. Olivia Coleman is Bruce's sister (original dance partner) is great as a confidant. She delivers no 'BS' zingers with empathy and whip comedic timing. It's just brilliant see Ian (Al Swearengen) McShane bringing his hard drinking, tough love to dance coaching. There's a touch of the Burgess Meredith 'Micky' vibe happening with slightly less screaming.
If Billy Elliot was about a passion nurtured from a young age, Cuban Fury is what happens when that unlikely passion for movement is lost, and found. It's as sweet and charming as its cast.
[rating=3] and a half
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: James Griffiths Written by: Jon Brown (from an original idea by Nick Frost) Starring: Nick Frost, Chris O'Dowd, Ian McShane, Rashida Jones
** Look out for a sensational cameo **
Blake Howard is a writer, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief & co-founder of Australian film blog Graffiti With Punctuation. Beginning his criticism APPRENTICESHIP as co-host of That Movie Show 2UE, Blake is now a member of the prestigious Online Film Critic Society, sways the Tomato Meter with Rotten Tomatoes approved reviews. See his articulated words and shrieks (mostly) here at Graffitiwithpunctuation.com and with DarkHorizons.com & 2SER Sydney weekly on Gaggle of Geeks.