Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (15)

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The Independent Culture

Ian Dury, who died 10 years ago, is here awarded the rock-biopic treatment, though whether it burnishes his legend or bruises it must be in doubt.

Andy Serkis, halfway between a Dickensian satyr and a superannuated Teddy boy, bares a strong likeness to Dury and fairly tears into the role, capturing his verbal dexterity, his manic stage presence and his enduring ability to rub people up the wrong way. "Never let it be said that my failure went to my head," he quips with paradoxical wit.

Paul Viragh, the screenwriter, shuffles flashbacks into the story of his rise to fame, and inevitably sees the musician's disability – he was crippled with polio and institutionalised from childhood – as a determining factor of his life: while he avoided self-pity, he seemed to regard his condition as a free pass to behave like a boor and a yob. Those closest to him suffered, principally Olivia Williams as his wife, Naomie Harris as his girlfriend, and Bill Milner as his son.

Honourably, the director Mat Whitecross tries to shake up the biopic routines by intercutting animation with concert performance (Serkis does a very convincing impersonation of Dury's voice and manner), and even conjures the engaging spectacle of The Blockheads doing "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" underwater. Yet what the film tries to project as Dury's loveable irascibility too often just looks like charmlessness; given that the portrait was sanctioned by his son Baxter, you suspect that the rock-star bad behaviour might have been even worse than it's depicted here. It's been made with love and respect, though in the long run it may not do much to enhance its subject's reputation.