Tony Manero

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Review byMatthew Turner8/04/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 97 mins

By turns shocking, powerful and darkly funny, this is an impressively directed, sharply written drama with a stunning central performance from Alfredo Castro.

What's it all about?
Directed by Pablo Larrain, Tony Manero is set in Chile, in 1978, at the height of both the Pinochet dictatorship and disco fever. Alfredo Castro stars as Raul Peralta, a 50-something dancer who models himself after Tony Manero, the character John Travolta plays in Saturday Night Fever.

The film opens as Raul turns up at a TV station for a Tony Manero lookalike contest, only to find that he's a week early and they're auditioning Chuck Norrises instead. Initially, Raul seems normal enough – Travolta fetish aside – but it suddenly becomes apparent that he is, in fact, a violent sociopath and that his obsession with recreating the glass floor from Saturday Night Fever is merely the tip of the iceberg.

The Good
Castro is superb as Raul, strutting around like a sleazy, inexpressive version of Al Pacino. In fact, Raul's a thoroughly repulsive character from beginning to end, so all credit should go to Castro for delivering such a hypnotic performance – he may be utterly despicable, but you can't take your eyes off him.

With that in mind, Tony Manero recalls other films with similarly unlikeable protagonists, such as Cedric Kahn's Roberto Succo or Rolf de Heer's Bad Boy Bubby, both of which clearly influenced Larrain. Like Bubby, it's also so relentlessly downbeat and grubby that you'll probably feel like taking a shower afterwards.

The Great
The sharply written script makes several intriguing political comments, both on Chilean society and, perhaps more relevantly, our current celebrity obsessed, reality TV-fuelled culture. In addition, Larrain's expert direction ensures that you're never quite sure what to expect in any given scene and the results are often shocking, darkly funny or both at once, such as in the film's key scene where Raul sabotages his rival, Goyo (Hector Morales).

Worth seeing?
Tony Manero is a well made, sharply written drama that's well worth seeing, despite being difficult to watch in places. Great final scene too. Recommended.

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Tony Manero
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Content updated: 17/10/2019 19:41

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