- Lots of good laughs
- Richard Thorncroft makes for a good central character (similar to Alan Partridge in all the good ways)
- Well-paced plot that frames the jokes well
- Slightly generic sTory
- Not particularly memorable without any quotable lines
A quirky British comedy, this film seems slightly random to have graced the front page of the UK IMDB; it seems to have almost come from nowhere. Yet it must have done the trick as the small screen I saw it in was nearly packed. With some consistent laughs, it keeps the audience entertained with a story that keeps plodding along and a main character you enjoy watching. It’s nice to see that British comedies can still find an audience and can still have some quality.
Former star of a cheesy 80’s TV detective show, Mindhorn, Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt) is now a failing actor, desperate to reap back some fame and get a comeback. He spots an opportunity when the police ask him to return to the Isle of Man to talk to a murder suspect, the Kestrel, (Russel Tovey) who will only talk to Thorncroft’s fictional TV detective, Mindhorn – a man with a robotic eye who can see truths and lies. Keen to get as much publicity as possible, he also runs into his former journalist girlfriend Pat (Essie Davis), stuntman (Simon Farnaby) and co-star who’s career is going considerably better, Peter (Steve Coogan). Naturally things blow out of proportion, leading Thorncroft to go on the run and leading to some exciting, comedic scenes.
So simple plot and premise, but engaging and interesting, if a little unoriginal – you can’t help but draw comparisons to Alan Partridge: Alpha Pappa; washed up has-been wants to get his career back on track, gets mixed up with the police and prioritises publicity over the crime right in front of him. Only this goes a little bit further with regards to plot, widening the scope and making for more interesting viewing (though slightly less funny – I’m an Alan Partridge fan, I’m biased). Though the similarities to the plot of the Alan Partridge film is unsurprising since Steve Coogan himself is executive producer (along with Ridley Scott, slightly more unusual).
Coogan himself is in it also, though criminally underused in my opinion. Whilst this may well be intended as a catalyst to boost Barratt’s comedy career beyond The Mighty Boosh, there should have been more room made to include Coogan’s character. Nevertheless the cast does a good job; Russel Tovey’s oddly misunderstood Kestrel brings much needed heart to the characters, it’s nice to see Andrea Riseborough doing something more comedic, and Essie Davis makes what would have otherwise been just a side-love interest less generic and more charismatic. The real laughs certainly come in part from Farnaby’s Dutch stuntman Clive Parnevik, but mainly from main man, Mindhorn himself, Julian Barratt. Farnaby’s comedic timing along with his best Goldmember-style Dutch accent is perfect, but Barratt really squeezes everything he can from the script and makes the part his own. Consistently charismatic and easy to enjoy watching, his character of Thorncroft is reminiscent of Alan Partridge himself; arrogant, stupid, self-obsessed, yet undeniably funny and somehow very likeable despite the numerous flaws.
This credit is due not only to Barratt’s performance but also the script, in fact written by Farnaby and Barratt themselves. This is a good, consistent British comedy with lots of jokes (even some Americans will find funny, rare for some British comedies). This bodes very well for the Paddington sequel which Farnaby is also writing. Most jokes hit, some miss, but nevertheless they rarely seem desperate. There is one instance, however, towards the end of the scene. In place of what would be an action scene in an action movie is a bit of physical comedy used to overpower the villain; sadly this is one moment where the comedy is immature and unnecessary, contributing to a disappointing ending on the whole. Despite few moments such as this, it’s impossible not to be amused at least once in this film.
The ending is disappointing; it’s as if they just ran out of time and had to round it up. But on the whole, while it can drag at times, overall the comedy keeps it plodding along nicely, keeping it well paced and the characters packing the humour in splendidly. It won’t go down as the most memorable British comedy and you won’t be quoting lines from it particularly often, but it’s a solid comedy to keep you entertained, giggling and sure that the British comedy film is still very much alive and well.