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Duo skate off with the kudos; Cinemawith Ian Bunting.

I, Tonya (15) .....

Ali v Frazier, Hunt v Lauda, Borg v McEnroe; there have been some famous sporting rivalries to capture the imagination of the public and media.

But as bitter as some of their confrontations became, neither competitor ever stooped as low as conspiring to have their nemesis physically attacked.

That is the engaging story at the heart of Craig Gillespie's (Lars and the Real Girl) creative sortof-biopic of notorious ice skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) and her desperate attempt to secure success at the 1994 Winter Olympics.

However, anyone expecting a straight-laced telling of Harding's back story will be in for a huge surprise as I, Tonya instead plays out like a strange hybrid of Goodfellas, Blades of Glory and Carrie (minus the telekinesis).

Both Robbie and co-star Allison Janney - playing Harding's overbearing mother LaVona Golden - are in contention for Oscar glory this weekend, in the Best Actress and Supporting Actress categories respectively and it's easy to see why.

Australian Robbie continues to make impressive strides up the Hollywood ladder with a pitch-perfect performance as the troubled Harding; one minute she's a put-upon soul that earns our sympathy and the next doing something reprehensible while sporting a manic look that's not a world away from Robbie's turn as Harley Quinn. Janney is even better, though. Yes she is saddled with an odious character with very few redeeming qualities but Janney plays it so well it's hard to be anything other than entertained by her cutting remarks and random outbursts as she basically writes the book on how not to be a parent.

Sebastian Stan takes a break from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to shine as Harding's abusive husband Jeff Gillooly in a display that flip-flops between loving encouragement and dangerous obsession.

The acting is strong across the board but I wish Gillespie and his writer Steven Rogers had settled on one definitive tone as, unpredictable as it is, the flick is more hyperactive than Jedward after a sugar rush.

Robbie breaking the fourth wall and the use of contradictory interviews and narration are neat additions but the rapid-fire cuts and primary colour scheme feel out of place.

The skating sequences don't soar like they should either as the digital effects team struggle to imprint Robbie's face onto a double; it's not quite covering up Henry Cavill's moustache in Justice League-bad CGI but not far off.

Use the Overall, however, there is more good than bad to be found in I, Tonya and it's commendable that Gillespie refused to blandly re-tell Harding's story in the point A-topoint B-route so many other sporting biopics go down.

But it's pretty telling that, outside of a nod for editing, its only Oscar recognition came for its top female duo.

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Publication:Dumfries and Galloway Standard (Dumfriesshire, Scotland)
Date:Mar 2, 2018
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