Strictly Sinatra

on June 10, 2001 by Chris Wiegand
   We have, without a doubt, seen some truly terrible haircuts on the screen in recent years. But not one of them--not Aaron Eckhart's mullet in “Nurse Betty,” Gary Oldman's dreadfest in “True Romance” nor Johnny Depp's Robert Smith nightmare in “Edward Scissorhands”--comes close to Ian Hart's woefully misguided wet perm in Peter Capaldi's “Strictly Sinatra.”

   Looking uncannily like Martin Short's camp producer in “The Big Picture,” Hart stars and croons as Toni Cocozza, an amiable Scottish-Italian club performer who sings “strictly Sinatra.” While Cocozza's act has brought him a minor following (albeit of cranky geriatrics rather than swingin' lovers) on the Glasgow pub circuit, he dreams of the stardom enjoyed by his idol. When his act attracts the attention of some local hoods, one of whom claims to have met old blue eyes himself back in Vegas, Cocozza finds himself drawn into the mob's affairs, to the anguish of his long-term pianist (the reliable Alun Armstrong) and his new squeeze Irene (an underused Kelly Macdonald, returning to her home town for the first time since “Trainspotting.”)

   This second feature from the DNA production stable is only slightly more successful than the first--last year's “Beautiful Creatures.” Like that film, it is notable for its strong lead performances but also for its inability to convincingly mix humorous material with the darker trappings of the thriller. Screen chameleon Hart (“Backbeat”) gives something of a tour-de-force performance as Cocozza, sharing sympathetic relationships with Armstrong and Macdonald, but Capaldi's self-penned script fails to capitalize on the potentially tragic nature of Cocozza's Faustian pact with the mob. And when the only thing that's truly funny and scary in a comedy thriller is the lead's haircut, it's a pretty sad state of affairs.    Starring Ian Hart, Kelly Macdonald, Alun Armstrong, Brian Cox and Richard E Grant. Directed and written by Peter Capaldi. Produced by Ruth Kenley-Letts. A Universal Focus release. Comedy. Not yet rated. Running time: 97 min.

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