Director: James Griffiths
Cast: Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O’Dowd, Ian McShane, Olivia Colman, Kayvan Novak, Rory Kinnear, Alexandra Roach
Plot: Bruce (Frost) is a nobody at the office, but when beautiful new boss, Julia (Jones), moves into town, Bruce is inspired to dive into his past and impress her with his salsa knowledge.
Nick Frost needs a solo hit. While he has handled some of the funniest characters in British comedies in recent years, it is painfully obvious that he has not broken out of Simon Pegg’s shadow just yet. While Pegg has Mission Impossible and Star Trek in between his comedy stints, Frost seems reliant on either the sharp writing of Edgar Wright or being carried by Pegg to really make it big in the movies. Cuban Fury marks the first time we see Frost outside of his comfort zone and while it is clear that he doesn’t come close to touching those dizzy heights, it is a heart-warming strong comedy debut for Frost.
Cuban Fury takes the stock romance plot of a loser guy who bumps into the girl of his dreams and decides to shake off his stilted maturity and win her over. Frost’s Bruce has one secret up his sleeve. In his childhood, he had actually been a professional salsa dancer, on his way to winning some big tournaments. However, on the way to the dance-off to end all dance-offs, Bruce was attacked by bullies. After being beaten up, Bruce quit on the team, provoking the wraith of McShane’s grizzly dancer sensei. Realising that his new attractive boss has a secret love for salsa himself, Frost decides to dust off the old dancing boots, track down McShane and try to rekindle his salsa spirit. Of course, it doesn’t quite go to plan with McShane still licking old wounds, his golfing buddies thinking salsa-dancing is for gays and most amusingly, Frost finds himself up against O’Dowd’s sleazy office worker who also has the hots for Rashida Jones’ dream girl. All very British comedy and Frost plays it with gusto. Right from the opening gag of him devouring some fromage frais, he is in his element. He handles the comedy with ease, clearly his strong-point. Whether he is awkwardly interacting with his fellow dancers or punching his fist through a plasterboard wall, he is never anything less than amusing. You want to see him get the girl, which is the most important part of the rom-com staple. Even more impressive is Frost’s aptitude with the dancing segments. Both Frost and director Griffiths come alive in the dance scenes. Filmed like action punch-ups and played with audacious ferocity, they are the highlight of the movie. Whether Frost is genuinely being beaten up dancing the foxy Latino cabaret dancer or a raucous dance-off between Frost and O’Dowd, the dance scenes make Cuban Fury a surprise hit.
It’s a shame that in between the dancing Cuban Fury is strangely generic. There are large segments of the film that seem devoid of gags. When Bruce is feeling sorry for himself, the writers almost let go of all the comedy moments. You need a Chris O’Dowd on screen more often, bringing nothing to the story but cheesy chat-up lines, but in a sense, that is what is needed more often. There are some great actors in the supporting cast that barely get a joke. Olivia Colman and Rory Kinnear are under-used, adding fresh faces to scenes, but short of a few strong moments to make their appearance in the cast list worth mentioning. Even Jones and McShane could do with a few more moments to please their fans. The one actor who gets the laughs is Kayvan Novak’s Bejan, a Middle-Eastern salsa dancer with a taste of still fanta and a sense of humour that stretches for miles. Whether fun is being poked out of his camp excitement for everything or how he comes out with politically incorrect things far too often for a Middle-Eastern man, the writers seem to have endless gags for the character. It’s a shame that couldn’t be stretched to the rest of the cast.
Final Verdict: Strong in places, weak in others, Cuban Fury is a hit and miss film, but it does give Nick Frost the boost he needs to define himself as a comedy lead.