Steve Coogan shines as Soho porn king Paul Raymond

Sundance Film Festival: Coogan gives Alan Partridge the slip to play King of Soho in 'The Look of Love'

LAST UPDATED AT 12:01 ON Mon 21 Jan 2013

STEVE COOGAN has stepped out of the shadow of his comic alter ego Alan Partridge with a "commanding" performance as Soho strip club entrepreneur Paul Raymond, the "man who sold sex to Britain".

The Look of Love, the fourth collaboration between Coogan and British director Michael Winterbottom, has had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and earned mostly positive reviews, particularly for its leading man.

Screen Daily's Mark Adams says the tale of Raymond, a "complex, charismatic and challenging man", is the "perfect platform" for Coogan's "undeniable talents". Winterbottom, he adds, "delves brilliantly into the empire of gentlemen's clubs, real estate deals and erotic magazines" that made Raymond so wealthy that, by 1992, he was described as Britain's richest man.

The Guardian's Jeremy Kay says there's only the merest hint of Partridge in Coogan's performance and the actor "does well to steer clear of parody", understanding that "behind the hedonism lies a man who is always in control".

Winterbottom's film focuses on Raymond's complex relationship with his daughter, Debbie, to drive the plot. Raymond supports her efforts to become a club singer and enables her drug-taking, but is devastated by her death from an overdose at the age of 36.

The young London actress Imogen Poots's performance as Debbie is "feisty and assured", says Kay, who also lavishes praise on Anna Friel as his Raymond's wife, Jean, and Tamsin Egerton who plays his glamour model girlfriend Fiona Richmond.

The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney is less enthusiastic about the film which he describes as an "uneven biopic" lacking in heart. Although the early part of the film is "frisky and entertaining", it gets "bogged down" in biographical detail and even cameos from Stephen Fry and Little Britain duo David Walliams and Matt Lucas, can't get it moving again.

The script's "biggest failing" says Rooney, is its inability to make the pivotal role of Debbie into a "full-bodied character". She comes across merely as a "whiny no-talent", he says.

But Screen Daily's Mark Adams insists that the strong cast and "genial sense of smuttiness" make Winterbottom's film a potential winner – with only one proviso: "The bountiful full-frontal female nudity may have an impact for some territories."

'The Look of Love' opens in UK cinemas on 8 March. · 

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