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May 13, 2010

Review: Pirate Radio

Set in 1966, "Pirate Radio" chronicles a time when rock n' roll music wasn't allowed to be played on mainstream British radio stations. What the great rebels of society decided to do at the time, was to anchor large ships out in the middle of the ocean and broadcast the defiant sounds of rock music 24 hours a day. Angering the British government, it became the mission of several sticklers to shut down such groups. The film focuses on a fictional ship with several characters based on known radio DJs of the time, and a colorful crew of rock enthusiasts. Young Carl is sent to the ship by his mother so he may spend time with his God-father Quentin, played by the ever-impressive Bill Nighy ("Love Actually," and Davey Jones in the "Pirates" films, though you can't always tell). When the government makes several frivolous attempts to outlaw the pirate broadcasts, but eventually puts some pressure on the crew, who must find new ways to reach their fans. Ultimately, the foreground of the story seems to center at times on Carl's attempt to lose his virginity to a girl who really likes him among a sea of sex, drugs and rock n' roll, in which everyone else seems to be more smooth and charismatic, though equally as unattractive.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman ("Capote," "Doubt") plays The Count, the lone American DJ (for a while) and is clearly one of the more rebellious members of the crew. His character seems part Howard Stern (without being horribly sexist and overly offensive), and bares a very strong resemblance to his portrayal of famous rock journalist Lester Bangs in "Almost Famous." Nick Frost ("Shaun of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz") is for once not the bumbling idiot of the group, though his character is at times a bit unlikable as he tries to help Carl out, but is just as quick to help himself out first. A rivalry arises between The Count and Gavin, an even smoother and more desired American DJ who once left the ship, but is now back to support them in their battle against the establishment. Gavin, played by Rhys Ifans ("The Replacements," "Little Nicky") could easily be confused with other characters in the film, as he doesn't speak enough dialogue or stand out in appearance. Maybe that's just me, but he's a memorable actor in a mysterious role amongst mysterious roles.

There are a handful of moments in the film that made me laugh out loud, by myself, and it's a funny enough movie overall, but the story itself is just alright. Having nearly all of it set on an anchored ship provides great visuals, and also a fantastically shot scene where records spill out of their covers through a room filled with water. It's no surprise this film had an extremely limited release. In fact, I knew it was coming out, but it was so quickly released on DVD that I think so few had the chance to see it in theaters. Either way, it's funny enough to watch if you're out of ideas, but I'm sure you could find something better to spend your money on.

"Here's a rather long record. I hope I'm here at the end of it."


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