“There Are Moments In A Rock Star’s Life That Define Who He Is. Where There Is Darkness There Is Now You, And It’s Going To Be A Wild Ride…”
Coming only months after the Academy Award for Best Actor was wrongly handed to Rami Malek for his often caricature laden and mime heavy portrayal of one of rock’s greatest singers in Bohemian Rhapsody, the story of Elton John now finds its’ way onto the big screen within Rocketman, a swear and drug heavy musical biopic which sees Taron Egerton (Robin Hood) take on the leading role for a movie which thankfully shows audiences what a decent biographical drama should look like. Directed by actor-turned-director, Dexter Fletcher, who ironically was handed the mantle of completing Bohemian Rhapsody after original director, Bryan Singer, was sacked for particular unruly pastimes, the London born filmmaker brings to life a joyous, often dazzling, celebration of rock and roll’s most loveable figure, one which blends musical arrangements with a hard-nosed examination of the rough edges of John’s early musical career, and with a whole double sided LP of top notch performances, Rocketman is a thoroughly engaging and satisfying burst of nostalgia which comes ever so close to being a work of excellence.
With Egerton in recent years attempting to throw his once promising career into the garbage with back-to-back works of sheer awfulness in the form of Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Robin Hood, Fletcher reunites with the star after their work together on Eddie the Eagle and allows the young Brit to completely immerse himself in the character of John, a career best performance which perfectly captures the inner insecurities brought on by his sexual ambiguity and non-existent relationship with both his holier-than-thou mother and absent, war-torn father. With the central performance nailed, the screenplay also allows Jamie Bell (Filth) to shine as long-term songwriting compatriot, Bernie Taupin, alongside stand-out supporting roles from the likes of Stephen Graham (Line of Duty) and Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) as John’s unbelievably self-obsessed mother, and with the narrative itself played back in almost dream like fashion, this allows the movie to indulge itself in dramatic absurdities as it crosses paths between A Star is Born and La La Land as we are treated to excellently choreographed set pieces which tweak the most famous of John’s back catalogue in order to expand upon his youthful endeavours. Whilst the movie is at least twenty five minutes too long and fails to maintain its’ wondrous sensibility throughout, Rocketman is a lavish and extreme work of musical delirium which will suit both Elton John obsessives and those somehow unaware of his music alike.
Overall Score: 7/10
“I Sent You To London So You Wouldn’t Start A War In Kingston…”
With hot rumours surfacing of him taking the role of the next James Bond and the return of BBC’s hit crime drama, Luther, in the near future, it’s fair to say that Idris Elba is indeed a busy, busy man, and with a fundamental warmth and undeniable likeability, Elba’s career seems to be going from strength to strength even when the steely-eyed few still remember Elba’s superb performance as Stringer Bell in the greatest television programme of all time, The Wire. It comes with a particularly heavy heart therefore that Elba’s directorial debut, a hazy adaptation of Victor Headley’s 1992 cult novel, Yardie, is unfortunately a plodding, strangely dull and overly cliched crime drama which fails to ignite the touchpaper of Elba’s switch from in front of the camera to behind it. With dedicated performances from many newcomers within the cast, an eclectic mix of groovy musical accompaniments and an obvious love for the source material from Elba, Yardie isn’t exactly terrible, but its’ major flaws are so crushingly obvious that it’s hard to paint over the cracks in order to make the film better than it really is.
Focusing on Aml Ameen’s (Kidulthood) Dennis “D” Campbell and his rise within the criminal underworld of a poverty stricken Kingston, Jamaica, the early exposition of the movie is recalled through the age-old use of voice-over, and whilst my own personal preference for storytelling undoubtedly favours a “show me, not tell me” format, Elba’s particular narrative technique does quickly become overly cheap and relatively boring as every single movement is described when the audience is already ten steps ahead. With the movie primarily suffering from an utter lack of effective characterisation which results in the film simply being observed than truly being sucked into the drama, the overly familiar gangster set-up fails to carry any fresh ideas, even when its’ key characters on the surface are interesting but are unfortunately let down by poor writing and dialogue which is as hokey as it is sometimes undecipherable. With a groovy soundtrack and some smokey, 70’s era London cinematography, Elba’s vision for the movie is admirable but with the whole much weaker than the sum of its’ parts, Yardie is a yawn-inducing disappointment.