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'Manglehorn' review: Film is flawed, Al Pacino isn't

Al Pacino plays A.J. Manglehorn in David Gordon

Al Pacino plays A.J. Manglehorn in David Gordon Green's "Manglehorn." Credit: IFC Films / Ryan Green

It says something about both Al Pacino and his latest foray into well-ripened eccentricity that the viewer wants to talk about Pacino far more than the movie in question. It's natural; Pacino's an unnatural attraction: Long considered one of the best American screen actors of his or several other generations, he also personifies star quality -- that amorphous something that makes a viewer look, even on those occasions when every decent instinct is telling you to look away.

The same can be said for car accidents, and there are indeed several acts of reckless endangerment committed by director David Gordon Green in "Manglehorn," which stars Pacino as a particularly artful locksmith who has for years been carrying a torch for a woman whose whereabouts is unknown, but to whom he regularly writes letters of ardent overreach. It might have been the stuff of mawkish sentiment and it's not, though Green does accessorize to an unnecessary extent, when the better thing to do would have been to back away from Pacino, and let him simply overwhelm the screen.

Manglehorn's nightmare date with a bank teller, Dawn (Holly Hunter), is a prime example of what the movie promises and doesn't always deliver. The dynamics at play -- Manglehorn's continued worship of Clara; Dawn's realization that her semi-suitor can't give up this other woman -- is a display of transcendent acting and, on Hunter's part at least, sublime restraint. It needs nothing; Green supplies it.

Elsewhere, though, he and screenwriter Paul Logan overembellish, adding symbolic flourishes and magical embellishments that don't add to a story that is being ably carried by a magical actor. Pacino's most recent work -- "The Humbling," and "Danny Collins" -- indicate that he has arrived at a very special place in a remarkable career. "Manglehorn," for its flaws, continues the winning streak.

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