Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane
Director: Louis Leterrier
Film review by Colin Lomas
There was always one at school; the boy who craved attention. Invariably quite amusing at first with his silly frolics, daft faces and good-taste challenging larks. He was popular, valued, admired, almost revered; the classic class clown. As the years passed the laughter would dry up, his audience distancing themselves from him so his antics would become more desperate and anarchic. Suddenly one day he would recognise that no-one was finding him funny anymore, instead of his expectant veneration all he would receive were occasional sympathetic glances of sadness and embarrassment. Not that this would stop him, there’s always another intemperate level of desperation for those willing to find it. In the school of comedy, Sacha Baron Cohen is in his last throes of hopelessness to entertain his sixth form audience with self-gratifying uber-grossness, only to find they have stopped caring and have virtually forgotten who he is.
Grimsby follows two orphaned brothers who were separated at a young age; Sebastian (Strong) went off to reside with a middle class family in London and now works as an assassin for a secret anti-terrorism cell of MI6. Elder sibling Nobby (Baron Cohen) stayed in Grimsby to a life in the council estates; drinking, taking soft drugs, fathering an inordinate amount of children and obsessing over the England football team. They meet up due to information granted to Nobby regarding Sebastian’s whereabouts from a friend in the local boozer which is absurdly unexplained, Sebastian is wrongly accused of killing the head of the World Health Organisation due to Nobby’s badly timed intervention and the two brothers set out to clear his name.
What follows is a menagerie of vulgar events which feel like a selection of tasteless sketches cobbled together without any thought to coherence. Grimsby is constantly bogged down with its writer’s obsession to shock whether it fits the storyline or not and quickly becomes boring and inconsequential. Gross can be funny, anything can be funny given the right script and correct context. Unfortunately for Cohen, the inverse is true; gross can be unfunny, anything can be unfunny given a terrible script and disjointed context.
Possibly the most frustrating element of Grimsby are the very occasional moments of brilliant comedy; one-liners delivered with such Coogan-esque perfection that it makes the rest of the movie all the more maddening given they are so infrequent. There are also instances of attempted family tenderness but it is impossible to tell whether they are intended to be ironic or affectionate so constantly fall flat.
The most baffling thing about Grimsby is how many big names it seemed to attract. Penelope Cruz and Daniel Radcliffe’s respective agents need to take a long look in the mirror and Ricky Tomlinson, Johnny Vegas and Ian McShane presumably had some down time between proper projects. Only Rebel Wilson feels like the kind of actress who would take anything that ends with a pay cheque.
At 83 minutes, Grimsby is about 80 minutes too long. It’s ridiculous, self-indulging, incoherent and for all its attempted shock factor, boring.