Ever since his Scarface asked us to say hello to his little friend, Al Pacino has had the tendency to chew up scenery like a rabbit tearing through a carrot patch.
That flair for dramatics has served him well on the small screen. He has collected Emmys for playing larger-than-life characters Roy Cohn in “Angels in America” and Jack Kevorkian in “You Don’t Know Jack,” both of which aired on HBO. Now comes “Phil Spector,” another HBO project that allows Pacino to rant and rave without looking like a ham.
The film, written and directed by David Mamet, focuses on the trial in which the legendary hitmaker (“Be My Baby,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”) was accused of murder, with Helen Mirren playing a skeptical defense attorney who is quickly charmed by her client.
Make that too quickly. Mirren’s transformation seems about as fake as the giant afro Spector sports in the courtroom, but it sure is fun hearing a proper Brit slide into the beats and rhythms of Mamet’s witty dialogue. The film is too intimate, too slight, for such a monumental figure and complicated case, but she and Pacino still make beautiful music together. □