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Review: Pirate Radio

Pirate Radio
11.16.2009
8 10
PLOT: In the swinging sixties London, rock n’ roll is frowned upon by the stuffy British establishment, with radio stations not being permitted to play more than one hour of rock a day. In order to give listeners what they want- all rock, all the time, several radio stations begin broadcasting illegally from the North Sea. This is the (fictional) story of one such station- owned by a chic hipster named Quentin (Bill Nighy), and home to two of Britain’s most popular DJ’s: the smooth talking Gavin (Rhys Ifans), and The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman) - a brash American rock jock.

REVIEW: Don’t be fooled by the title- PIRATE RADIO is actually just a re-titled, re-cut version of THE BOAT THAT ROCKED, a big budget British comedy from Richard Curtis, the man behind FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL, ABOUT A BOY, and LOVE, ACTUALLY. The film was something of a flop at the European box office last spring, and thus, the American distributor cut 15 minutes out of the film, and slapped it with a generic new title.

I haven’t the faintest idea why THE BOAT THAT ROCKED flopped in the UK. The story’s great- with pirate radio stations such as the one depicted in the film actually existing in the UK during the sixties. The cast is sterling, with not only Hoffman, Ifans, and Nighy- but also Nick Frost, Bond-girl Gemma Atherton, MAD MEN’s January Jones, Emma Thompson, and Kenneth Branagh. Add to that the f**king kick ass soundtrack (with tunes from The Kinks, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys, and many, many more), and Curtis’s golden touch, one would have to assume this would be a hit- right?

Alas, it was not meant to be, and seeing it for myself, I’ve got to ask- WTF people? This is a great flick, although, to be honest, I’m probably a bit biased. You see, I work in radio here in Montreal, and one of the stations I work at happens to be classic rock, so this film is right up my alley. But still, you don’t exactly have to be a radio aficionado to dig this film. It’s fun as hell, and pushes all the right buttons.

Heading the ensemble cast, Philip Seymour Hoffman continues his string a remarkable performances here as The Count, and while it won’t win him any Oscars, it’s nice to see him lighten up a bit- and he handles the light comedy very well. The great Rhys Ifans is similarly great, and this is probably the best role he’s had since playing a guy stalking Daniel Craig in ENDURING LOVE. Nick Frost also manages to impress with a nice change of pace as an unlikely ladies man, who manages to shag Gemma Atherton, and steal the lovely Talulah Riley from pretty boy Tom Sturridge.

Really, if there’s one weak link here, it might be Sturridge’s story-line, which seems like a leftover from Curtis’ LOVE, ACTUALLY but I’ll have to chalk it up to the fact that Curtis seems to share the same remarkably sunny world view as his American counterpart- Cameron Crowe. You see, in Curtis’ world- EVERYONE will ALWAYS live happily ever after with a perfect mate, and Sturridge seems to be Curtis’ way of tacking some romance onto the film. Still, you can’t fault a guy for being too much of an optimist…

I should also mention the awesomeness of Kenneth Branagh, as the evil antagonist, Sir Alistair Dormandy, as the Minister trying to shut down our heroes. Now, Dormandy is a pretty two-dimensional villain- with him never coming across as anything less than 100% evil (his Hitler-ish toothbrush mustache pretty much illustrates exactly where Curtis is heading with the character). Nevertheless, Branagh makes a great, hissable villain, and even has a sidekick named Twatt (tee hee hee).

Not having seen the UK version, it’s possible that this re-cut of the film has fixed a few of the pacing issues UK critics mentioned in their reviews. Having left the theater wanting more, I’d like to see the original cut for myself, and hopefully the Blu-ray will offer it. Nevertheless- this cut is what North American audiences are stuck with, and I urge anyone looking for a fun, rockin’ time to check this out. As for me- I'm off to download the bitchin' soundtrack.

RATING: 8/10

Source: JoBlo.com

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