Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Review: Mindhorn

Cert: 15 / 89 mins / Dir. Sean Foley / Trailer

It's a rare film which promises exactly what you'd expect and then delivers on it perfectly. Even moreso when it comes to the often uneven genre of comedy. Mindhorn is a rare film. Washed up TV actor, Richard Thorncroft, is called back to his old stomping ground on the Isle Of Man to revisit his most famous character, as a superfan/serial-killer threatens to strike again unless he can speak to the fictional 1980s super-detective… Mindhorn.

I laughed like a drain throughout this film, and the rest of the audience weren't far behind me. The film's title-sequence featuring Mindhorn's TV-opening credits and interview snippets is glorious in itself, and the amount of world-building that goes on is of Garth Marenghi levels. In fact the only real grumble I have about the film is that we don't really get much more in the way of the recreated TV show itself once the idea is established.

One of the (even) weirder aspects of the film is the sense of agoraphobia generated by seeing the expansive scenery of the Isle of Man which, bar a couple of scenes, is populated by almost no extras. The island ends up feeling like an abandoned theme-park, increasing the unease in an already borderline surreal story.

Julian Barratt is front and centre of the show (like Richard Thorncroft would have it any other way), but is supported more than ably by Andrea Riseborough, Essie Davis, Richard McCabe, Steve Coogan, Russell Tovey and Simon Farnaby*1, as well as a smattering of cameo performances from the more dramatic end of the spectrum. Although for all Barratt's many comedic collaborators over the years, the Fielding brothers are notable by their absence.

In all fairness, this feels like one of those sitcom spin-off movies that gets released in August. Unapologetically televisual in both scope and execution (other than that gorgeous 2.35:1 aspect-ratio), Mindhorn celebrates its fictional roots rather than trying to adapt itself beyond them. Any issues which arise from what is essentially TV-writing on a big screen (it's only 89 minutes and it still begins to sag a little) are overcome by the film's self-awareness and brazen silliness. Plus, as it doesn't have any actual TV show to be compared to, the film doesn't have that particular hurdle to clear in the first place.

I love that four years ago, Andrea Riseborough was partnering a sci-fi actioner with Tom Cruise, and here she is playing the straight man in a kitsch farce set on the Isle of Man. Fantastic stuff.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, The Mighty Boosh, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa.

It also puts me in mind of Free Fire, even though they're like completely different books, but maybe on the same shelf?

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
If you can, definitely.
Although Mindhorn is on that Netflix (US) already, so off you go

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It does.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Best? Probably not. Although it's still utterly fantastic.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I shall ask you to explain yourself.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I heard.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: This film's got Resistance medic Harter Kalonia and Blue Squadron pilot Farns Monsbee in it.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 And as a stand-in for Mindhorn/Thorncroft, which I'm taking as a clear reference to this episode of The Mighty Boosh, not least since Barratt and Farnaby wrote Mindhorn. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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