From Manchester to Mad-chester
Running Time: 117 minutes
UK Certificate: 18
Unappreciated TV journalist and entrepreneur Tony Wilson was there to witness it all as Manchester went through a musical revolution spanning from the mid-70s right through to the early-90s. He was among the 42 audience members at the Sex Pistols' first show, signed the likes of Joy Division and Happy Mondays to his Factory record label, and was the brains behind legendary nightclub Hacienda. So who better to feature as the pivotal character in this warts and all tale of sex, drugs, rock n' roll and generally being "mad for it"?
Steve Coogan is perfectly cast as Wilson, juggling his acting role in the story with witty asides to the camera, off-beat Alan Partridge-esque TV report assignments and plenty of narration to make sure we're all talked through what's going on. We see the formation of Joy Division and are taken right through to the suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis (played here to a tee by Sean Harris), bringing about the creation of the all-conquering New Order. Also brought to us is the birth of the legendary Happy Mondays, and the trials and tribulations of working alongside drug-fuelled potty-mouth Shaun Ryder.
Danny Cunningham is absolutely fantastic as Ryder, whilst John Simm looks the spitting image of New Order frontman Bernard Sumner. And there are no shortage of appearances from other faces that'll be instantly recognisable to UK viewers: Ralf Little as the suitably understated New Order bassist Peter Hook; Cold Feet's John Thomson in a comic turn as Wilson's agent; stand-up Peter Kay as a sleazy pub owner; Keith "World In Motion" Allen as a big-shot from London Records; TV genius Dave Gorman in a brief cameo as the local postie.
While parts of the film seem a little rushed and as a result we never really get to know any of the deluge of characters being flung at us from all angles, it's a fascinating and at times hilarious story. For the most part, comedy takes precedence over drama, which thankfully removes the danger of the film becoming overly-heavy and instead makes for some hugely enjoyable viewing.
It's Got: God appearing to Wilson in a vision and telling him: "Its a pity you didnt sign the Smiths, but you were right about Mick Hucknall his musics rubbish and hes a ginger."
It Needs: To let us hear more of the music, which is used only in brief snippets. After all, as Wilson says at one point, "this film is about the music and those who make the music."
DVD Extras Audio commentary from a choice of either the real Tony Wilson or Steve Coogan with producer Andrew Eaton, a documentary on director Michael Winterbottom, deleted scenes & pop-ups, trailer, interviews and artwork. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10
Alternatives:This Is Spinal Tap
A must if the likes of Joy Division, New Order and the Happy Mondays are your cup of tea and highly recommended even if theyre not.