CUBAN FURY – Real Men Dance! This is the tagline for this salsa infused comedy, complete with a dancing Nick Frost in one of his first lead roles. Our film here follows Bruce Garrett (played by Frost) who as a youngster was a Champion Salsa dancer, the boy with fire in his feet. However he gives up his passion after a traumatic experience involving bullies, vowing never to dance again. Fast forward some 20+ years later and Bruce is an uninspired loser, the victim of constant verbal diarrhoea from his co-worker Drew (Chris O’Dowd). Things change for Bruce, as the pair gets a new boss Julia (Rashida Jones), who is a charming and beautiful lady that both men like. Bruce in an attempt to try talk to Julia outside of work finds out she Salsa dances, so he decides to pick up the sport he once abandoned. But in doing so he finds something he had lost long ago, his real self.
This film is more of a comedy version of something like STRICTLY BALLROOM; both films at their core are about overcoming fears and finding ones self. CUBAN FURY takes a more comedic approach to its story, with Bruce really being the underdog not only for the affections of Julia but in life as well. His journey as it turns out, isn’t just for the woman, she is the fire that lights him up again and he is out to rediscover his passion and find life again. Of course he is egged on by his sexist and disgusting co-worker Drew, who both acts as someone to get him to make a change and is off putting in his advances for Julia.
The film works really well because Bruce’s journey is a good one, we the audience can get behind him and we want to see him succeed and really stick it to Drew! The romance sub-plot isn’t as well developed, as it should have been though, Julia isn’t one we know too much about. The scenes Bruce and Julia do share are very sweet and there is a strong hint of chemistry, which isn’t as explored as it could have been. The film really does focus on Bruce’s journey from loser to confident dancer who has rediscovered life. It isn’t hard to see why this is because Nick Frost is great to be around and he really embraces Bruce and makes him work as a character.
CUBAN FURY is the debut from directorial film from James Griffiths and it is a very solid effort. The passion he has for his craft is clear, and the film does work very well for the most part. Jon Brown also makes his debut as feature film screenwriter and with both writer and director having a background in television helps, but it is also evident as well. Sometimes the film does play out in a television comedy type manner, a small downside to an overall very enjoyable and fun film.
Nick Frost works well as a leading man, he’s very likeable and easy to follow. He can play the loser and down on his luck character well, but he can also dance! Yes he did learn to Salsa for this role and he looks like a pro when he is putting himself out there. The role definitely required a lot from him and he made it look easy, just one of his many talents (he also made fighting look easy in THE WORLD’S END). Chris O’Dowd who I am not used to seeing play the sleazebag looked right at home as Drew, and he did share a very interesting chemistry with Frost as the pair worked so well off each other. Rashida Jones was very charming as Julia, and it is a shame we didn’t get a lot more of her on screen with Frost because there was an apparent chemistry that didn’t quite fully get there. Olivia Colman was quite funny and just so cute as Bruce’s sister Sam, who was his Salsa partner and the woman who is encouraging Bruce to reclaim life. Ian McShane was wonderful as Bruce’s old dance instructor Ron and he’s delightful in his grumpiness in getting Bruce to reach his full potential. The scene-stealer here though is Kayvan Novak as Bejan, a new friend Bruce makes in Salsa class who helps Bruce along with his journey.
This film makes for a really fun and funny watch, the humour isn’t quite politically correct and it is good to see it push some boundaries there. It aims to get the characters out of their comfort zones and embrace everything that is thrown out at them. While yes some improvements could be made, it is admiral the way it stands and will make for a good rewatch during the rainy day weekends.