Directed by Sean Foley.
Starring Julian Barrett, Essie Davis, Russell Tovey, Andrea Riseborough, Jessica Barden, Harriet Walter, Kenneth Branagh, and Steve Coogan.
A has-been actor best known for playing the title character in the 1980s detective series “Mindhorn” must work with the police when a serial killer says that he will only speak with Detective Mindhorn, whom he believes to be a real person.
There’s a moment late on in Mindhorn – Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby’s farcical master class-in which Barratt’s Richard Thorncroft, a washed up actor drunk on nostalgia, finds himself duct taped into the costume that once made him famous, his skin painted a Tango-tinge of orange, his hair covered in sofa-interior fluff. Hoping to be rescued by his accomplice, he begins to squawk. It’s fantastically absurd and gelastic, and only places further emphasis on what makes Mindhorn so joyful in its rib-tickling silliness.
In the early 80’s, Richard Thorncroft was a superstar, starring as Bruce Mindhorn in the gauche “Mindhorn,” a cop who-following an accident-has his left eye replaced with a scanner giving him the ability to “literally see lies.” Fame steadily followed, a relationship with costar Patricia Deville (Essie Davis) bloomed, as did an ever-growing ego.
Following cancellation, a misjudged appearance on Wogan results in Thorncroft insulting cast members and the inhabitants of the Isle of Man alike. As an act of self-isolation boosted by a desperate yearn for fame, he uproots off to LA with the promise of success.
25 years later, he’s washed up, balding and overweight living in a flat share in South London with his only success since the heady days of the mid-80s being the face of orthopedic socks. A rare audition finds Richard trying desperately hard to please Kenneth Branagh to no avail. Yet retribution comes in the form of a Mindhorn obsessed serial killer (Russell Tovey). Thorncroft, reluctant for but a moment returns to the Isle of Man after an absence of decades to halt these killing, much to the dismay of cop Andrea Riseborough.
Farnaby (sporting a fake tan, bleached blonde hair and a Dutch accent for little purpose but for a few laughs) and Barratt maintain silliness, pausing only for a moment of heightened drama. Plotting errs towards messiness late on as character motivations become foggy, yet it never loses touch of its rampant, joyful idiocy. Grand soliloquies are broken up by one-liners or a sight gag involving a plasticine phone. In the hands of lesser writers, these moments of intense drama may protrude uncouthly. Take Fist Fight, a film with an absurdist centrepiece bogged down by dramatic insecurities; in fact, the grand majority of action-comedies from across the pond still struggle with finding a balance.
Jokes are rooted in the preposterous whilst burrowing deep into the tragic psyche of an overweight, one time star. There’s none of the character fatigue of David Brent nor the boorish real-life ego of its actor, just a tragic sense of self-worth.
Andrea Riseborough, may be game but is given little to do, existing as a tool for exposition, her frown burrowing further and further. Tovey impresses, his avian obsessed serial killer bolstered by a sympathetic performance, as does Essie Davis, an ever-welcome screen presence.
Yet Barratt and Farnaby refuse to truly share the wealth of gold. The two spar off one another with the rigor of the Two Ronnies if doused in fake tan, wig glue and cheap aftershave.
The sheer hit rate of Mindhorn is to be celebrated. Twice round, jokes are still lost amidst deep chuckles and belly laughter. The funniest film of 2017, maybe of the last couple of years.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★