Of late it wouldn’t be unfair to say that acting legend Al Pacino has made some questionable decisions in which films he has involved himself with. Thankfully, 2015 appears to mark a turning point or as close as he’s going to get to a return to form at his age. He’s already taken part in classy ‘An Evening with…’ events in the UK this year, and is now starring in comedy drama ‘Danny Collins’ written and directed by Dan Fogelman. The film is loosely based on the true story of British folk singer Steve Tilston. Pacino takes the eponymous role as you might expect, playing a fed up has-been rocker who dines out on his past successes – mainly his hit record ‘Hey Baby Doll’ which is surprisingly catchy! When his manager Frank discovers an old handwritten letter addressed to Danny from none other than John Lennon, he is forced to reflect on his life decisions. Turning his back on the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, he chooses to track down his long-lost son and looks for love and redemption along the way.
With a writing background that includes crafting the screenplays for films such as Crazy Stupid Love and Last Vegas, first time director Fogelman has had experience in combining sentimentality with playful, and at times corny, humour. He gets the balance just about right with ‘Danny Collins’. The romantic side of the plot leaves a little to be desired with the chemistry with Mary (Annette Bening), or ‘patter’ as Danny would put it, mainly covering old ground but the family story has a lot of heart. Bobby Cannavale and Jennifer Garner are introduced around halfway through as Danny’s son Tom and his wife Samantha, and despite not getting the deserved screen time, their emotional scenes bring out the best moments of the film, and it is when Danny’s character path turns from sleazeball to loveable rogue, and more importantly a doting dad. Pacing issues present themselves as a conclusion is dragged out to a degree, but all round solid acting prevails.
Beneath the schmaltzy surface is a genuine feel-good movie that effectively does the job it sets out to do. Like the nostalgia-filled concerts that he himself puts on night after night to his adoring fan base, ‘Danny Collins’ won’t blow you away with its originality, but it’s warm familiarity and uplifting overtones will leave you with a satisfied grin across your face. It is a admirable debut feature from Dan Fogelman and pleasing to watch Al Pacino in a part he obviously enjoyed and that does him the justice he deserves as a veteran performer, even though it is lightweight material compared to his heyday. De Niro, take note.
Read about my evening with Al Pacino by clicking here!
With an acting career spanning nearly half a century featuring iconic performances in The Godfather, Scarface and Heat to name but a few, Al Pacino this year graced the UK with his presence to discuss his staggering back-catalogue in depth and at length. His whistle-stop tour went to just Glasgow and London, and I was lucky enough to be in attendance for the former, eager and excited to hear all of his Hollywood stories. Following a suspenseful montage of some of his finest big screen moments, he was met with a rapturous applause and cries of ‘We love you Al!’ to which he responded humbly and with bags of humour and charisma, replying ‘Hoo-ah!’, a phrase or sound in which he coined in his Oscar winning role as blind ex-Army officer Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman.
The night took a format comparable to the Inside the Actor’s Studio television series hosted by James Lipton, where Hollywood faces enjoy reflecting on their past glories and are met with posing questions from aspiring actors. This provided structure to the chat between Mr Pacino and the interviewer, Scottish journalist Billy Sloan but had its pros and cons in reining in the talkative interviewee. Sloan’s questions kept the discussion in a logical flow which took us from his upbringing in The Bronx through to his rise to fame and preventing tangents, though at times Pacino’s rambling into the unexpected areas brought about the best moments. For example, he told an anecdote of meeting eccentric Italian director Federico Fellini and being awe-struck at the very prospect. Fellini grabbed a hold of Pacino’s cheeks and in his broken English said he was a ‘beautiful boy’…but continued with ‘too beautiful for a part in my films’, quickly nipping Pacino’s hope of landing a role in the bud.
Fascinating insight came from his name-dropping as he spoke openly of interactions shared with the likes of Marlon Brando, Francis Ford Coppola and later with Robert De Niro, an actor he is always closely associated with. He painted a vivid picture of the film industry circles with his words, and was a showman in his delivery, taking the stage to carry out scenarios whenever he felt it was necessary. The classiness of the evening took a temporary downturn when the audience were invited to ask questions, resulting in a mixed bag consisting of either the obvious or the ridiculous. Fortunately when the crowd participation was drawn to a close and Billy Sloan exited stage left, Al Pacino was left to his own devices to entertain the adoring fans with not only an Oscar Wilde poem recital, relating to his film Wilde Salomé from 2011, but live acting! Yes, he concluded proceedings with a re-enactment of a scene from David Mamet’s play American Buffalo, of which he appeared in London’s West End stage production in 1983. It was a wondrous experience to see one of the greatest actors of his generation do what he does best in the flesh.
Al Pacino’s latest release Danny Collins has received rave reviews and is showing in cinemas nationwide, and his next project Manglehorn will screen at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival. It features in my Top 5 Films to see at EIFF 2015!
Next month, the iconic Hollywood actor Al Pacino visits the United Kingdom to take part in ‘An Evening With…’ events in both London and Glasgow. I will be hoping to grasp the opportunity to ask him a question about his hugely impressive career. Until then, let’s celebrate how much of a talent he is, and reflect on the film performances that helped make him the legend he is today.
‘Say hello to my little friend’ is arguably one of the most quotable lines in cinema culture, epitomising the egotistical drug-lord Tony Montana whom Al Pacino played in Brian De Palma’s crime thriller ‘Scarface’. It is set to be remade in the coming years but I doubt any actor of today could match the sheer screen presence of Pacino in his heyday.
In a rare good-guy appearance, Al Pacino brilliantly took the eponymous part of patrolman Frank Serpico in Sidney Lumet’s police corruption drama. Sick and tired of the constant pay-offs taken by his cheating colleagues in the force, he goes out to expose his co-workers, but at what cost does justice come at?
3. Godfather Part I
In the performance that launched him into the limelight, he is the soft-spoken youngest son of Don Vito Corleone in the first instalment of Francis Ford Coppola’s mafia trilogy ‘The Godfather’. His cool, calm and collected exterior is put to the test when the safety and well-being of his family is threatened, and he takes drastic action.
2. Dog Day Afternoon
In a ‘how not to rob a bank’ masterclass, Al Pacino co-stars as hapless dreamer Sonny Wortzik alongside John Cazale, who plays his on-screen brother in the entries that sandwich this one in the list. Sidney Lumet directs again and we see another side to Pacino where his character quickly loses control of a high-intensity situation and he is forced to face the consequences of his foolish decision-making.
1. The Godfather II
In the second part of Coppola’s gangster epic, the reserved youngster from the original becomes a fully fledged boss of the crime family, and will stop at nothing to keep his empire and his reputation intact. The transformation of Michael Corleone goes a long way to showcase the colossal talent of Al Pacino, and is recognised as one of the greatest character arcs in film history.