Mojo Review

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Rags to riches rock'n' roll fable.


If he doesn't already, there will doubtless come a time when Jez Butterworth looks back on Mojo as the secret of his success. Twice the story has thrown up artistic firsts - initially providing the young playwright with a prestigious debut at the Royal Court Theatre, and in its adapted form as his inaugural big screen feature.

It's summer in the city and the air is anything but still as rising rock 'n' roll sensation Silver Johnny (Hans Matheson) sends the teeming throng of Ezra's Atlantic Club into swooning apoplexy with his latest slick-hipped, curled-lipped performance. In the background, intending to ride their star's glittery coat-tails to the big time, are motor-mouth gophers Potts (Serkis), Sweets (Martin Gwynn Jones), club manager Mickey (Hart), Ezra's unpredictable son Baby (Aidan Gillen) and the hapless Skinny (Bremner), who'd simply rather Baby stopped squeezing his nuts all the time.

But when Johnny goes missing after significant interest from shadowy music Mr. Big, Sam Ross (Harold Pinter), tension comes to bear on the fractious Atlantic crew and their pretence at gangster resolve is given an acid test.

Although this adaptation is dramatically unsentimental - with two-thirds of the play's sharp patter abandoned - there's still a strong stage flavour, and the film becomes more a character study of would-be hoods disintegrating in an increasingly sweaty crucible than a recreation of late 50s Soho and the birth of pop fever. At times it feels self-consciously limited, but with Hart once again displaying sheer class, Pinter's Ross a suitably sinister invention and the rest of the ensemble playing well enough.

There's talent and substance to distract in a picture that never quite gels into an effective whole.