Stuart Hepburn's bio-play about legendary Italian road racing cyclist Marco Pantani couldn't be more timely, what with the Giro d'Italia, which Pantani won as well as the Tour de France in 1998, currently underway.
The great thing about bio-plays, at least ones as well written and well acted as this one, is that even if you've never heard of the subject, it doesn't take much to go along for the ride and find yourself gripped by their story.
That's certainly the case in this excellent three-hander starring Blythe Duff, James Smillie and Jordan Young as Pantani – nicknamed "the Pirate," because of his shaved head and the bandana and earring he wore.
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Informative, emotive and poignant, the piece is a fall-from-grace cautionary tale ,wherein we witness the youthful dreams and drive of one of the greatest mountain climbers ever, as he focuses on becoming a legend in his own lifetime, onto the fame he enjoyed (the Pope requested a signed jersey), before eventually hitting rock bottom in a career cut short by a doping scandal that saw him end his life alone in a hotel room, dead from acute cocaine poisoning.
Full of recurring leitmotifs (the river, Duff as his unstable mother, urges him not to cross; metal on flesh), the backstory details and switches in time are deftly handled by director David Overend. He also coaxes fine performances from his cast, with Young in particular a tour de force.
Like his great rival Lance Armstrong, unfortunately, Pantani's legacy didn't turn out to be all about the bike, but rather all about the drugs. But his story makes for compelling drama nonetheless.
Sponsored by Heineken.
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