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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
Cast
Andy Serkis
Naomie Harris
Olivia Williams
Bill Milner.
Directors
Mat Whitecross.
Screenwriters
Paul Viragh.
Running Time
113 minutes

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Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
Andy Serkis is a runaway Dury


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Plot
After years of slogging around the pub circuit, Ian Dury (Andy Serkis) ditches his band and forms the Blockheads to critical and commercial acclaim, but his sudden escalating success has a profound and damaging effect on those around him, not least his son, Baxter (Bill Milner)…


Review
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
Ian Dury and his Blockheads turned the musical world on its head with their first two albums and slew of singles at the end of the ’70s. Their career was emphatically longer than that, but they blazed brightest with 1977’s debut, New Boots And Panties!!, and Do It Yourself two years later. What set them aside as a band was not only the Blockheads’ furiously proficient funk and punk musical skills, but also Dury’s erudite wordplay. It was also rare to see a singer dominate a stage so effortlessly who also happened to be afflicted with polio.

Knobbled by the disease he contracted in a swimming pool in Southend as a young boy, the cruelty of his plight was sometimes reflected in the angry and occasionally blithe personality of the man who had also been abandoned by his dad and sent away to an austere school for disabled children. This complex upbringing, halcyon days of fame and excess, and Dury’s intermittent brilliance as an artist and songwriter are all brought to bear in Mat Whitecross’ movie.

Dury’s legacy is an unwieldy one. He alienated the people around him, but was endearing and generous: an archetypal lovable rogue. Andy Serkis is already being touted as a BAFTA winner for his performance as Dury, and it’s not difficult to see why: his physicality, singing voice (he got to perform with the Blockheads, to his nervy bemusement) and broad rasping voice are remarkable. Even Dury’s son Baxter, who acted as occasional consultant on the film, was unnerved by Serkis the first time he loped past in the singer’s familiar stage garb.

Bill Milner, too, is electrifying as the teenage son watching his father move further away as his parents’ marriage splinters and Dury repeats every sad trick in the rock ’n’ roll book. The film itself abandons any real linear form, and while it occasionally dazzles with pop art king Peter Blake’s animation (he taught Ian in art school), this only serves to confuse the viewer not already familiar with Dury’s story. Ray Winstone is a gentle, dreamlike figure as Dury’s long-lost dad, while Naomie Harris looks suitably enlivened and then crushed as Dury’s long-standing on-and-off-again girlfriend. It’s Serkis’ movie, though, whether as the leering frontman or the introspective and complex artist.


Verdict
A sometimes whimsical and magical take on the life of one of Britain’s most artistically charged rock stars. Serkis shines in his role as the troubled singer.


Reviewed by Philip Wilding

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
Empire Star Rating

4/5

Great movie. Serkis is superb. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bereski at 22:04, 23 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE: halcyon days of fame and excess?

A good film. Serkis holds everything together with a strong performance, but as a whole the film doesn't quite hit the mark. 7/10 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by robwillphill at 09:38, 07 January 2010 | Report This Post


halcyon days of fame and excess?

What on Earth does this mean? Surely an oxymoron? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by keepingthepipes at 03:19, 05 January 2010 | Report This Post


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