In a perfect world, Sacha Baron Cohen should have about now been well on his way to revealing a tremendous Freddie Mercury biopic. Sadly, we don’t live in that world, and thanks to some bonkers choices by the producers of that project, the BORAT and THE DICTATOR frontman parted creative company with them some time ago, and has returned more or less to familiarly outrageous ground with GRIMSBY
Nobby Butcher (Baron Cohen) and his younger brother Sebastian (Mark Strong) were separated as orphaned children. Nobby stayed in their home town of Grimsby in Northern England, and grew into a work-shy, football loving father of somewhere around 11 children. Sebastian on the other hand, became one of MI6’s finest secret agents. Nobby finally tracks down his brother, only to cause a major international incident, and the two must go on the run to prevent a major terrorist plot and clear their names.
As Ali G and Borat have repeatedly proven, Baron Cohen is a smart, sharp comedian. As the rest of his output proves, he loves pushing the boundaries of taste. With THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY, he’s lost none of his penchant for outrageousness – his ability to take a revolting gag and then ram it through taste’s looking glass (so to speak) remains almost unparalleled, and all while managing for the most part to keep things barely on the right side of offensive. He does this by ‘punching up’, and playing Nobby as the underdog – the ‘workless class’ yob whose entire community has been written off by wealthier society (think TV’s Shameless). However there are also some lazy misses: Nobby likes fat women, ha ha ha. It’s also Baron Cohen’s thinnest premise yet, and basically just an excuse for as many dick, bum and bukkake jokes he can cram in. Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course, just don’t expect this one to be a film with much to say – and that’s unusual.
You’d have never guessed from the trailer, but the film has a surprisingly polished look, courtesy of action director Louis Letterier (THE TRANSPORTER; THE INCREDIBLE HULK; NOW YOU SEE ME) and his team. But the real winner here is Mark Strong, so willing to go along into so many degrading scenarios and be the straight man to Nobby’s neverending incompetence.
It’s by no means a great film - possibly even Baron Cohen’s weakest (depending on what you thought of ALI G: IN DA HOUSE and BRÜNO) - but for those who can stomach the sheer volume of sphincters, scrotums and fluids on show, it’ll be mission accomplished for THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY, but only just.
(THE BROTHERS) GRIMSBY is released February 24 in the UK, March 10 in Australia and NZ, and March 11 in the US