Welcome back, classic Al Pacino.
Pacino stars as the titular role in “Danny Collins”, a film that follows an aging rocker who decides to make some life changes after receiving a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon. Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, and Bobby Cannavale all co-star while Dan Fogelman writes and makes his directorial debut.
There’s really no sugar-coating it, this is a story that we have seen before. A famous person in the final stage of their life realizes that they’ve made some mistakes, and set out to make peace and find redemption. “Danny Collins” never tries to stray from the course, but thanks to a fantastic cast and some fun writing, it is elevated above its cliché narrative.
I’m personally a fan of screenwriter Dan Fogelman. He may not be Tarantino, but his scripts, including “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” and the underrated “Last Vegas”, usually feature playful dialogue that lend themselves to fun scenes and character interaction. In “Collins”, he pens some great exchanges between Pacino and Annette Bening, who plays the manager of the hotel Pacino stays at, and their chemistry keeps the film from every getting stale.
I’m also a fan of Bobby Cannavale, and he turns in a solid performance here playing Pacino’s adult son who has never met his father. Cannavale brings the Italian charm that makes him so likeable, but at the same time gives a balance of hatred and unease in the scenes he shares with Pacino. He doesn’t want to forgive his father for being absent all his life but at the same time knows it isn’t fair to let his daughter grow up not knowing her grandfather. In the scenes with Pacino and Cannavale often no words are said, but both men do excellent jobs letting the audience know how they are feeling with their body expression and eyes.
While it is able to mostly overcome its familiar subject matter, there are times that “Danny Collins” becomes almost frustrating in how predictable it is. Whenever something is going right for a character you know bad news is right around the corner, and Danny’s addiction to drugs and alcohol seems to come-and-go as needed by the plot. The final act of the film is also somewhat poorly paced, slowing down considerably before rushing to a finish.
With a cast this talented and charming (Christopher Plummer and Nick Offerman both also make appearances), “Danny Collins” mostly overcomes its contrived moments and leaves the audience feeling good when the credits role. As the opening slide of the film states, this is “kind of, sorta” based on the true story of folk singer Steve Tilston, who discovered a letter from Lennon back in 2010, which makes the film just a tad bit more interesting.
Overlaid with John Lennon tracks and featuring one original song that I still have stuck in my head, “Danny Collins” is a feel-good film featuring a strong central performance from Pacino, who like Collins himself has recently entered into near self-parody in his work. If you’re looking for a tale about redemption and some fun interplay between some big name actors, then you’ll want to book a ticket to Danny Collins.
Critics Rating: 7/10