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Al Pacino acts the hell out of 'Danny Collins'

This image released by Bleecker Street Media shows

This image released by Bleecker Street Media shows Al Pacino in a scene from the film "Danny Collins." Photo Credit: Bleecker Street Media, Hopper Stone

There aren't many actors still working who can be genuinely described as icons. There are even fewer such performers who are given parts that remotely approach reminding us of how and why they achieved their iconic status in the first place.

Al Pacino has avoided descending to Robert De Niro levels of subservience to paycheck parts but it's been a long time since he was handed a role as juicy as the eponymous figure in "Danny Collins," the directorial debut of longtime screenwriter Dan Fogelman ("The Guilt Trip").

He acts the hell out of it across a full emotional spectrum and provides the anchor for a movie that combines moments of heightened comedy and sincere drama in an organic fashion.

Collins is a kitschy musical superstar in the Neil Diamond or Michael Bolton vein who takes stock of his life and hates what he sees: a one-time serious artist reduced to regurgitating the same soporific hits, a much-younger fiancee who isn't exactly in it for love and sports cars and mansions that offer no happiness.

So, he decamps from Los Angeles to a New Jersey Hilton and starts trying to get to know the son (Bobby Cannavale) he's never met.

Fogelman works in an easy, commercial style, relying on bright pictures and colorful comic beats, as well as emotions that might be obvious but never feel unearned. It's a sweet movie that is simultaneously attuned to the way painful memories metastasize and linger to the point where they're hardly even memories at all. There's heft below the surface: Collins' internal crisis, his yearning to make up for the past, is palpably conveyed by the sadness Pacino applies behind the extroverted mask.


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