By Simon Miraudo
March 17, 2014
Cuban Fury is, according to its opening credits, based on an “original idea” by star Nick Frost. The “original” part of that sentence might be stretching it a tad. It’s an amiable rom-com about unlucky-in-love British engineer Bruce and his attempts to woo new American boss, the way-out-of-his-league Julia. His obstacle is standard-issue-jerkhole Drew, a colleague who continually refers to Bruce as “ballbag”. We’ve seen this tale a thousand times before. The crinkle that Frost has added to it is that our hero is a one-time salsa champion, and it’s on the dance floor that he plans to win Julia’s affections.
Though it follows a fairly predictable pattern of events, I found myself remarkably concerned with how things were going down. I wanted the guy to get the girl. I was frustrated by the jerkhole. I’ll credit my unlikely emotional investment to Frost, a talented, uber-appealing leading man, as well as the two very funny actors sitting at the other points of this love triangle: Rashida Jones and Chris O’Dowd. (She’s the boss, and he’s the jerkhole, in case that wasn’t made clear.)
Director James Griffiths and writer Jon Brown – working, as mentioned, on an “original idea” by Frost – have delivered a lively little number that may not revolutionise the genre or even remain in your memory by year’s end, yet entertains with great ease, inspires more than a few laughs, and keeps some of our favourite people employed. Rounding out the impressive cast is Ian McShane, as a belligerent salsa legend who reluctantly agrees to tutor the out-of-practice Bruce, Olivia Colman, playing Bruce’s sister and former dance partner, and Kayvan Novak, such a delight as Bejan, a flamboyant salsa beginner with an affinity for flat Fanta and armed with an inspirational ’80s film quote for any occasion. To further the point that this may not be made up of the most original ideas ever imagined, it’s Bruce’s gay buddy Bejan that administers the mid-movie makeover, turning him from schlub to a silken, shimmering, club-hopping hunk.
The dance sequences, impressively performed by Frost and seemingly very rarely by a double, are pretty electrifying. Colman – apparently a first-timer – outclasses the entire cast. There’s a perfectly silly and perfectly funny dance-off between Frost and O’Dowd, punctuated by a killer cameo. And at just 98 minutes, the picture knows it’s disposable and frivolous enough that it shouldn’t outstay its welcome. Cuban Fury is sweet, spunky, and almost too easy to watch. Nick Frost’s ideas may not be all that original, but he knows when he’s got a good one.
Cuban Fury arrives in Australian cinemas March 20, 2014.