When Sacha Baron Cohen reprised his Borat persona back in December on Jimmy Kimmel Live to promote his upcoming comedy entitled ‘Grimsby’ (or ‘The Brothers Grimsby’ stateside), I was intrigued to say the least. My interest was roused mainly due to my fondness for the aforementioned Kazakh character. However, it seems to me that in recent times the Ali G creator’s comedic and creative capabilities have taken a downward slide. Like many movie goers, I thoroughly enjoyed Borat (2006) and was also somewhat partial to, albeit inferior, Bruno (2009). But let’s be honest those films were released almost ten and seven years ago respectively. Thus, Baron Cohen really had to bring us something original and innovative in order to give his authority as a leading man a much needed shot in the cinematic arm. Whilst Baron Cohen can perform serious roles at a reasonably high level, such as he displayed in Sweeney Todd (2007) and Les Miserables (2012). Comedy will always be his niche and it is within this genre that he needed to reassert his stature. But does Grimsby put the ball in the back of the net in this regard?
For those who may have missed this picture’s extensive and prominent advertising, it tells the story of secret agent Sebastian (Mark Strong, Kingsman: The Secret Service 2014) reconnecting with his football hooligan brother Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen) after the boys were separated at childhood. With both individuals taking very alternative life paths, after spending some storied and turbulent time together, the two begin to realise that they may not be so different after all. This all comes about whilst trying to clear Agent Sebastian’s tarnished name following a botched job and saving the world from a deadly airborne virus.
The movie undoubtedly boasts a stellar ensemble cast featuring some very underrated and underutilised acting talent. However, following this flawed and erratic showing, not a lot has changed in terms of pushing those perceived boundaries. For the most part, it felt as though the vast majority of the actors were above the material they were given to work with. Aside from a few clever quips, the script came across as very lazy and reliant on hackneyed crude humour. Borat was indeed praised for its smart, satirical and edgy screenplay, but this style of humour has aged about a well as fresh cream. Sacha Baron Cohen really ought to have learned his lesson following the lukewarm reception to The Dictator (2012), but alas.
Aside from seeming somewhat dated now, the film really bears little to no timeless qualities. A great deal of jokes are extremely reliant on very current popular culture references, which will probably seem out of place by the time the DVD appears on supermarket shelves in some months time. As previously suggested the predominantly talented cast are painfully underutilised. Mark Strong who can often come across as cool, sleek, stylish and elegant is busted down to a role which makes him look like he’s merely helping his buddy out by being in his film. Precious (2009) star and Oscar nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe is relegated to childish fat jibes alongside the ever annoying and overexposed Rebel Wilson (How to Be Single 2016). Whilst Isla Fisher (The Great Gatsby 2013) and Annabelle Wallis (Peaky Blinders) succumb to the temptation of an easy payday; offering up little more than onscreen eye candy.
With a runtime of less than an hour and a half, the film really does seem excessively short. Perhaps it could have done more to flesh out the dynamic between the two protagonists. Furthermore, a lot more focus could have also been put on the villains, especially the seemingly malevolent Ian McShane (Ray Donovan). With such talent at one’s disposal, I really feel director Louis Leterrier (Now You See Me 2013) should have pushed his performers outside of this very apparent comfort zone.
Despite very few bright moments of originality and clever dialogue, this film feels very forced and relies far too much on entertaining cinemagoers that probably aren’t even old enough to gain admission to the theatre.
Grimsby scores 4/10 on the MACmeter!
Until next time … Colm