by Katie Hogan
Yesterday was not only the UK premiere but also the world premiere of Mindhorn, featuring some well known faces the comedy crop of British (and one Australian) talent. Written by Simon Farnaby and Julian Barratt you can expect an outlandish plot with hilariously crafted characters all set in an unlikely part of Britain. The film delivers and most definitely does not disappoint.
Mindhorn, an over the top ridiculous TV series from the 80s set on the Isle of Man stars Richard Thorncroft (Barratt), as the MI5 special operative who was captured and experimented on, leaving him with a robotic eye which is a lie detector so he can literally ‘see the truth’. Now he is the best detective the island has ever had. This is how Mindhorn is introduced, along with a mini documentary interviewing the cast and crew. But it is all too painfully obvious that Mindhorn aka Thorncroft has since disappeared from the spotlight.
Thorncroft, now a washed-up has-been of an actor, hiding out in East London when the Isle of Man police contact him after a murder suspect will only speak to Mindhorn. Thorncroft returns to ghosts of his past and for a possible PR job on his career but soon finds out there is more to this ‘case’ than he first realized.
A recognizable story about a previously famous actor trying to scrape back to the limelight and redeem himself all at the same to time is given the gloriously funny twist that his character he is famous for has a robotic eye and is called Mindhorn. The name alone stands out from the crowds of TV detectives. It is also thanks to Barratt and Farnaby’s writing. The jokes that seem fast a furious are carefully paced and are visual as well as verbal. There is a talent for writing a joke in early and having it pay off later on in the story and not making it obvious.
Set on the Isle of Man, gives the character of Thorncroft as well as his fictional counterpart and place to travel back to a sense of going back to where it all began, no matter how painful or embarrassing. But what is refreshingly new is that the inhabitants of the Isle are relatively normal, unlike other remote or unusual locations where previous comedies have concentrated on. There are some marvelous characters lurking but they are slightly eccentric or over the top in difficult situations but ultimately they are grounded.
The film cleverly balances the out right funny lines with the slightly more emotional (but still amusing) scenes. At times it does feel like Barratt and Farnaby were going for ‘a laugh a minute’, which works exceptionally well, especially with the fast paced action. Even the slow moving parade scene where a real fight breaks out and the commentator continues on as if this was part of the show, it still feels as if the story is picking up pace.
The film only clocks in at 89 minutes, which feels too short. There would have been plenty more time for the villains of the piece to get more screen time and a little longer with Steve Coogans’s obnoxious supporting actor now spin off famous Windjammer have a bit more time would have made the film and story that little bit extra. Apart from this quibble, the film is faultless and it’s a great to see such a brilliantly assembled cast. Comedy is alive and well in the UK.
Dir: Sean Foley
Scr: Simon Farnaby, Julian Barratt
Cast: Julian Barratt, Simon Farnaby, Essie Davis, Russell Tovey, Andrea Riseborough, Richard McCabe
Prd: Laura Hastings-Smith, Jack Arbuthnott
DOP: David Luther
Music: Keefus Ciancia, David Holmes
Run time: 89 minutes