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Phil Spector

Sat Jun 29, 9-10.50pm, Sky Atlantic

How’s this for a weird disclaimer? ‘It is a drama inspired by actual persons in a trial, but is neither an attempt to depict the actual persons, nor to comment upon the trial or its outcome.’ With this in mind, perhaps it’s no surprise that HBO’s ‘Phil Spector’ film goes off half-cocked. David Mamet’s screenplay and direction feel tentative and undercooked, the exposition dull and a powerhouse cast seems muted, perhaps with such potential legal issues in mind.

It’s a shame, given the irresistible material: legendary but reclusive music producer goes on trial for the murder of an aspiring actress. Al Pacino is restrained as Spector when, for once, a few more fireworks might have been in order; it’s left to his astonishing wigs to provide the pyrotechnics. Helen Mirren, meanwhile, is watchful going on dour as Spector’s attorney.

It engages in fits and starts, as Spector’s paranoid ramblings drift in and out of coherence and acuity, but too much time is spent on technicalities and too little on explaining why we should care. Given the wealth of talent involved, this is rather more ‘Death of a Ladies Man’ or ‘End of the Century’ than ‘Be My Baby’ or ‘Unchained Melody’.

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