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Manglehorn (Al Pacino) - DVD Review

Manglehorn

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

AFTER a run of indifferent (at best) leading roles it’s good to see Al Pacino rediscovering his mojo with films like Manglehorn and Danny Collins.

But while the latter traded more on the actor’s charisma in much of the same feel-good vein as Scent of a Woman, David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn finds him in more sombre, soulful mood much like the overlooked People I Know.

Indeed, Pacino delivers a quietly haunted, emotionally complex portrayal of the eponymous Manglehorn, a key specialist who feels trapped by a past in which he let the one true love of his life escape. Indeed, such is his continued infatuation with this woman that he writes her regular letters in the hope of eliciting a response.

In doing so, however, he alienates those around him, including his grown-up son (Chris Messina) or the bank teller (Holly Hunter) with whom he’s struck up a flirtatious friendship. Any affection he can muster is reserved almost exclusively for his sick cat, which has swallowed a key and needs an expensive operation. But there are flashes that offer some hope that Manglehorn can turn things around and gain some kind of shot at redemption.

Far from treading a predictable path towards a feel-good conclusion, this tale of redemption opts instead for a deeply indie route that makes the outcome far from telegraphed. Indeed, just as he did with Nicolas Cage in Joe Gordon Green creates a somewhat love-hate relationship between his audience and his lead character.

Manglehorn is quite often a difficult man to like, let alone love, and Pacino imbues him with all manner of quirks and eccentricities (hints at a violent past, a propensity for self-destructing) while also offering flashes of what could be (a man driven by love and kindness, as evidenced in a scene with his grand-daughter or an honest heart-to-heart moment with his son). In such moments, Manglehorn wins you over.

And yet the same love-hate relationship extends to the movie as a whole, courtesy of Gordon Green’s direction. The tone of the film isn’t always consistent, while the direction can be overly flashy. Several scenes veer into some kind of psychedelic flight of fantasy that pulls viewers out of proceedings, which can be annoying.

This also comes at the expense of some of his supporting characters, with both Messina and Hunter feeling short-changed in terms of what they have to offer proceedings. They’re both good and definitely worthy of greater screen-time.

Thankfully, Pacino’s quietly magnetic performance (by turns tender and stubborn) holds the film together, as it’s always a pleasure to see him on this kind of form.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 1hr 37mins
UK Blu-ray and DVD Release: November 2, 2015