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A new film revives the 1980s rivalry between Alex “Hurricane” Higgins (Luke Treadaway) and Steve “The Nugget” Davis (Will Merrick), two very different personalities who helped popularise the sport on TV. In 1985, the world snooker final was watched by 18.5 million people, still a record for a post-midnight audience in the UK. Debuting on BBC iPlayer, The Rack Pack is directed by Brian Welsh (Glasgow Girls, Black Mirror), written by Shaun Pye, Mark Chappell and Alan Connor, the team behind A Young Doctor’s Notebook. Nichola Burley plays Alex’s wife Lynn Higgins, with James Bailey as Jimmy White and Kevin Bishop as Davis’s manager Barry Hearn.
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The Rack Pack movie full length review - Get potted
Just before the start of the 1982 snooker world championship, Alex Higgins gave an interview to a newspaper. He criticised Steve Davis as staid and downplayed his own chances for the tournament. Davis as defending champion was knocked out in the first round and Higgins went on to win the tournament.
Ten years earlier Higgins was the youngest world snooker champion, a sport known to be slow and played by old men. My older brother used to rave about Higgins in the 1970s.
Then again if you watch this film the only person that raved about Higgins were people who never met him or got to know him. Higgins was a drinker, a drug taker, womaniser and a bona fide hell raiser. I think this film just showed us the edited highlights and a toned down version at that. There was the disgusting incident where he threatened to send the paramilitary terrorists to sort out Dennis Taylor that was wisely excised in this film.
Nerd Alert Warning: I saw Steve Davis when he made his snooker television début in Pot Black in 1978 where he played Fred Davis. I saw him do the first televised 147 break which was on ITV and hence not commentated by Ted Lowe as shown here. I even remember his chat show 'A frame with Davis.' Actually I am a fan of Steve Davis even though he is also a Tory supporter.
This drama made Davis out to be a lot more nerdy than he was at the time but I think it was just to add contrast to the characters. Barry Hearn as portrayed here was a lot more jovial than the hard headed businessman he is and you have to be ruthless if you enter the world of boxing promotion which Hearn did in the mid 1980s. I did think the actor playing Higgins was just too much of the caricature of the Higgins we know from the press and television although I was amazed by the potting skills of the actors or it was clever use of CGI.
Of course there was a lot more shades of greys in real life back in the days when snooker took off in the 1980s. We just see Higgins and Jimmy White as the bad boys of snooker and the press were more interested in the rivalry between White and Davis who were the emerging new generation.
Yet during the era many snooker players lived life to the hilt with booze, drugs and women. Even Cliff Thorburn shown here as dull and with a dodgy Canadian accent was exposed as a cocaine user.
Still a celebration of a time when snooker was more than a load of old balls.