If you'd told Ian Hart, back when he was stealing scenes in BackBeat as a charimatic John Lennon, that eight years later he'd again be playing a musician, but an unattractive, talentless one, he might have been rather downcast. Likewise Kelly Macdonald, if you'd told her that five years after Trainspotting she'd be playing an older, sadder version of Diane. The sight of these two treading water is just one of many reasons writer/director Peter Capaldi's joyless drama is such disheartening viewing.
Strictly Sinatra inhabits a humdrum, sentimental corner of Brit cinema that's remained unchanged since the `70s - - a place where the pubs are all grimy, the clubs are all tacky and it's always about to rain. Capaldi's cardinal error is making Toni such a loser. He's hopeless with women, has surrogate father figures instead of friends and, worst of all, isn't much of singer. Imagine if Billy Elliot had been crap at ballet, or Little Voice couldn't hold a tune. Depressing, isn't it?
Hart generates as much charm and comedy as the role (and his hideous perm) allows, but he's fighting a losing battle. Capaldi's trolley dash down the aisles of Britpop clichés would not be complete without gangsters, and their appearance makes Toni's options too clear cut: to pursue his dream by consorting with organised crime, or jack it in and stick with his substitute family. Considering his capacity for villainy could fit comfortably into a matchbox, it's not much of a moral dilemma.
And so it limps on, towards an ending so absurdly contrived it would hobble a great film, let alone one that's already weary. Every laugh is tainted with sadness, and every actor looks like they'd rather be somewhere else, particularly Brian Cox, whose chilling Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter seems like a lifetime ago. He, like the viewer, deserves better.
As Scottish as rain and deep-fried Mars Bars, and just as unappealing, Strictly Sinatra wallows in bathos and conservative know-your-place morality. Lively performances can't save a Britflick so content to underachieve. Strictly second-rate.