Grimsby: Film Review
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Penelope Cruz
Director: Louis Letterier
2012 marked the last time we saw provocateur Sacha Baron Cohen attempting to push the envelope with The Dictator.
So he's back with another character and more of a spy action comedy film than a mockumentary in the style of Borat or Bruno.
This time, Baron Cohen is taking on the North of England but also hinting at a softer more sentimental style with his story of Nobby (Baron Cohen) and Sebastian (Mark Strong, surprisingly game and willing to debase himself), who've been separated for 28 years.
But when Sebastian, who's now working for MI6, finds his cover blown by his England tattoo-sporting football shirt-wearing brother as he tries to foil an assassination, he's forced on the run and to co-opt his brother Nobby into helping stop the murder of WorldCure (played by Penelope Cruz).
If Bruno and Borat had the ability to shock and provoke, Grimsby is a tamer affair, a sort of spy caper that is more obsessed with the puerile and promotes gay panic with wild abandon.
And yet by entrusting the proceedings to Now You Can See director Louis Leterrier, what emerges is a slick, pacy piece that doesn't stay still long enough for you to pick fault with its sub par-Kingsman leanings.
Emerging as a kind of knob and AIDS-obsessed spiritual successor to Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig's Spy, Grimsby is doused with Baron Cohen's DNA and a Viz style anal fixation that's cyclical with the beginning leading you by the hand to its closing crowd capper.
However, despite appearing to be mocking the Northern scum of the hive of council flat dwelling working classes, Grimsby is doused in a blanket of sentiment that's as gooey as Baron Cohen has ever got.
Fear not though, there are the usual scatological minings of proceedings that you would expect and Baron Cohen unwelcomely revives HIV and AIDS jokes with nothing more than a reason to offend. This is not smart satire by any stretch of the imagination and there's a guarantee you won't feel good for for laughing at what transpires.
There's an obvious topical reference or two that pokes fun at the US elections, and one sequenceset in South Africa will see you either on its side or wondering how much lower the bar can go.
Character is lacking; no one emerges as fully rounded and is there simply to debase themselves in one way or another.
Strong deserves some accolade for playing it straight before giving into the lunacy of proceedings and even strengthens the case for an older spy franchise with him as the lead.
And Leterrier deserves some kudos for the initial POV action pieces which echo Hardcore Henry and many FPS video games. His zip and fast pace propels everything along nicely too, though it's fair to admit the 84 mins starts to feel stretched thin as time wears on.
Ultimately, in among the Liam Gallagher mocking swagger and the butthole obsession that tends to low hanging fruit, Grimsby is a puerile film that occasionally produces some unexpected laughs. It's not art, but to be frank, it never professes to be and gleefully and perversely soldiers on its mission to attempt to offend as well as riff on the spy/ mismatched buddy genre that's proven so fruitful in the past. Though admittedly, it's more Bourne Stupid, than Bourne Supremacy.