The Rack Pack full movie review - Big break
I grew up watching snooker just as it boomed on TV and the Higgins / Davis rivalry came to prominence, so I thoroughly enjoyed this warts and all dramatisation of the relationship between the mercurial Irishman and the stolid Essex boy in the early 80's.
I like my sporting and musical heroes to be mavericks so no prizes for guessing where my sympathies lay and from the production here, I suspect that was true for the director too. Unquestionably an often far from pleasant man, an alcoholic with a foul tongue and short temper, Higgins, like that other genius Belfast boy, George Best, always seemed to have one finger poised over the self-destruct button, treating his life like one big game of snakes and ladders, where the falls outnumbered the rises not only in number but in scale.
Sporting rivalry always makes for good copy, as witness down the years Borg and McEnroe, Hunt and Lauda, Ali and Frazier to name but three, where one is usually undramatic and coolly professional, the other as being flamboyant and rebellious. Higgins at his best could beat anyone on the green baize, but with his showmanship, temper outbursts and alcoholic intake all distracting him at times, he could never match the discipline, professionalism and steadiness of a Davis. If Higgins was the self-proclaimed People's Champion, then Davis was the Grannie's Favourite.
This BBC movie accurately captures the 70's and 80's era as snooker came out of the smoky back rooms and, its image greatly cleaned up, onto TV screens as the favourite armchair sport of the nation in the mid 80's. With a largely contemporary rock music soundtrack in the background, although many songs are haphazardly placed in the wrong year, excellent recreations of the big matches themselves and above all a terrific performance by Luke Treadaway as the compelling Higgins, I was certainly transported back to my youth eagerly following the Hurricane's wayward progress in both his sport and his troubled life.
With sharp dialogue, including many good jokes and fine acting support by Will Merrick as the "interesting" Davis and especially Kevin Bishop as the latter's Kingmaker manager Barry Hearn, this was as riveting as watching Higgins compiling a break. I didn't believe everything I saw, especially the scenes where Higgins begs Hearns to be his manager or Davis talking Higgins out of his depression at losing a match when well into his decline, but I recognised enough other scenes and can allow some dramatic licence to heighten the drama.
In the final summing up I'd prefer to watch Higgins play than Davis, but after the match I'm sure I'd prefer to be in the latter's company. I'm sure they played down some of the Irishman's excesses, but being deceased, he probably deserved the respect this fine film affords him.
And just as a postscript, I personally think they should have added his name to Best's for the naming of Belfast's airport, his star burned as brightly and briefly as his footballing near-contemporary.