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HBO scores with Pacino as Phil Spector in Barry Levinson production

What a great weekend: HBO sent a screener for "Phil Spector," a made-for-TV movie about the legendary music producer, starring Al Pacino and Helen Mirren. Barry Levinson is the executive producer, with David Mamet as writer and director.

That enough talent for you? David Mamet, whose "Glengarry Glen Ross" is made of the same fine angry American genius as Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman," and he's writing and directing a Sunday-night made-for-television movie on HBO. Talk to me some more about how TV dumbs down the culture.

What a treat to see Pacino in full flower -- and I do mean full -- as Spector. This performance is in a league with his Roy Cohn of "Angels in America." But since Spector was a music producer, the references are broad, accessible and the sound track just kicks you know what. Spector's own million sellers both underline and comment on what is an unbelievable performance. Pacino still has the nerve to take the kind of huge risks in performance that almost no other living actor -- with maybe the exception of Sean Penn -- does. 

And then, to have Mirren playing opposite Pacino in what for wonderful, long stretches feels like a dance you don't want to end. Mirren portrays the defense attorney brought in for Spector's first murder trial. You remember that one -- a waitress, a gun, a mansion, a white suit and a dead body.

No spoilers. I'll stop. Mark your calendars for 9 p.m. March 24. This is the kind of production that separates HBO from almost everything else on television.

 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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