|'Pacino is never close to being stretched, but that doesn't stop Danny from being the most enjoyable role he's been seen in for some time'.|
It's hard not to watch Danny Collins without thinking that Al Pacino took the lead role with some recognition of a parallel with his own career. Either that, or Pacino is the only one not in on the joke. Danny (Pacino) is an aging rock singer, highly successful but reflecting on a career that has for a long time squandered his talent - a tale which unfortunately shares some familiar notes with Pacino's own career since the turn of the 21st Century.
Thankfully, whilst his performance in Danny Collins can't be considered a true return to form, it's also a very long way from one of Pacino's worst. Pacino's Danny is Keith Richards meets Alan Partridge, holing up in a modest and sleepy Hilton Hotel to remove himself from the life he has festered within for so long, whilst also trying to kick the drink and drugs long enough to regain his creative faculties. Pacino is never close to being stretched, but that doesn't stop Danny from being the most enjoyable role he's been seen in for some time.
Surrounding Pacino are a supporting cast of reliable names delivering some pleasingly understated turns. Annette Bening as Hilton Manageress Mary gives a satisfying counterpoint to Pacino, resisting the rock star's somewhat cringeworthy advances with decorum, whilst slowly allowing Danny a route into her affections. Bobby Cannavale as Danny's estranged son Tom is fine, but is regularly upstaged by Jennifer Garner's winning performance as his wife Samantha. Rounding out the cast as Danny's manager Frank, Christopher Plummer is also reliably strong; although like Pacino alongside him he is never challenged, drawing the character straight from his plain-speaking old man stock.
And therein lies Danny Collins' major shortcoming. Writer and debuting director Dan Fogelman is perfectly happy allowing his film to remain largely safe, offering few narrative surprises. Much like several other recent films starring big names of yesteryear (including 2013's Last Vegas, which Fogelman penned), this is a film regularly built around, and deriving humour from, the idea of growing old. Whilst not necessarily a problem, Fogelman does little new or original with the idea. The director also plays it safe with some of the potentially more emotional elements of the plot; Danny's road to reconciliation with Tom in particular feels a little too bump-free after their initial confrontation to truly resonate.
The final act ensures the whole thing doesn't devolve into saccharine sentimentalism, however, allowing the story to retain something of an authentic edge. It's hard not to get drawn into Danny's pilgrimage to redemption, and the scene involving his intimate "comeback" concert is one of the most affecting the film has to offer. Ending at perhaps its strongest point, Danny Collins is satisfyingly engaging and entertaining throughout, even if it's unlikely to become anyone's new favourite Pacino film.
Danny Collins is available on UK Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 5th October 2015.