Verge Reviews: Mindhorn

Anyone familiar with Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby will no doubt have 3 words that spring to mind immediately when their names are mentioned. Those words are ‘The Mighty Boosh’. When The Boosh was aired on television in 2004 after a successful comedy radio series, the show instantly gathered a cult following and it launched the careers of both Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt. Since the television show ended in 2007, both Fielding and Barratt have been separately working on various other projects. Fielding, for example is now the new host of The Great British Bake Off and Barratt has a new film out…Mindhorn.

As you’d expect with anything from the minds of The Mighty Boosh, Mindhorn needs a bit of explaining. Barratt plays Richard Thorncroft, an ageing actor who was known in the 80’s for playing TV Cop Bruce Mindhorn, a Police Detective with a ‘super-advanced optical lie detector’ that allowed him to literally ‘see the truth’. And there you have it, the type of wonderfully random tagline that made The Mighty Boosh so popular.

The film opens with a younger Thorncroft at the peak of his success on the set of Mindhorn, arrogantly acting his way towards an inevitable career nosedive. You see him making the usual mistakes, appearing drunk on talk-shows and slagging off his co-stars and more needlessly, the Isle Of Man. Fast forward 20 years and it’s clear that Thorncroft’s career is at an all time low, despite his latest commercial for orthopaedic socks. But when a killer is on the loose on The Isle Of Man and the suspect tells the Police that he will only speak to Detective Bruce Mindhorn, Thorncroft is called back into action as he hopes that discovering the truth about the murders will begin his comeback and give him some much needed positive press attention.

So yeah, the plot is fairly thin as you might expect, but you know what? It doesn’t matter. It is brilliant! Mindhorn is filled with just as many weird and wonderful references as it is characters. Co-Writer Farnaby is gloriously odd portraying Thorncroft’s former Dutch stuntman and new love rival, Clive. His creepy, sexual persona antagonises Thorncroft perfectly and comes complete with an interesting Dutch accent and an even more interesting pair of denim hot pants. Essie Davis is excellent as Thorncroft’s Actor-turned-Journalist ex-lover and co-star Patricia Deville and theres a solid cameo from Steve Coogan who plays Peter Eastman, Thorncroft’s other co-star and nemesis who has gone on to star in Windjammer the most successful series ever made…on The Isle Of Man. Russell Tovey and Richard McCabe both give brilliant comedic performances as die-hard Mindhorn fan Paul Melly and Thorncroft’s tragic ex-publicist but the real star is unsurprisingly Barratt with his portrayal of Thorncroft/Mindhorn. His pompous, arrogant and annoyingly sophisticated persona is wonderful to watch and conjures up quotes that would even make Ron Burgundy proud. From his cringe-worthy attempts to be cast by Kenny B, known to most as Sir Kenneth Branagh in his latest project to giving policemen teabag dunking tips that he learned from Sean ‘Double Bag’ Bean, he brings Thorncroft to life perfectly and is an absolute joy to watch.

But it’s not just the performances that make Mindhorn great. It’s so brilliantly British and is a real salute to our way of making simple plots and unromantic settings not only very funny but also just really enjoyable to watch. The amount of detail that has gone into the hidden jokes, the 80’s Mindhorn merchandise school ruler and Thorncroft’s venture into music with ‘You Can’t Handcuff The Wind’ being played in the background on an 80;s TV set is the perfect example of this. These under the radar jokes act as metaphor for the film and their style of comedy itself; it’s the not spoon-fed, it’s hidden, different and very clever. In fact, I’d go as far to say that I haven’t felt that simple, funny and surreal feel to a film since Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz. Neither film takes itself too seriously and they both perfectly reflect our unique way of being able to laugh at our own British persona. Hot Fuzz has the sleepy countryside stereotype down to a tee and Mindhorn, a film which opens with a TV Cop racing around in an 80’s soft top feels very much at home on the Isle Of Man. It’s so quotable too! For a good week or so after the screening my friend Mike and I found ourselves quoting lines to each other, many of them just as random some of The Boosh’s classics. Old Gregg anyone?

It’s clear from the beginning that both Farnaby and Barratt have written an instant British classic. Their attention to detail to bring you into the surreal world where a mid-twenties man dresses as up as Mindhorn’s new partner and calls himself ‘The Kestrel’ is absolutely spot on and exactly the reason why people have fallen in love with their creations before. Mindhorn though, is not just a big screen version of The Mighty Boosh, it’s nowhere near as random or as flamboyant and on a similar note, it’s not flashy, sexy or anything that you’d expect when you hear the words ‘retired cop’. Mindhorn is however, a much-needed reminder that we can do comedy too. It’s a breath of fresh air in this day and age of over the top and expensive explosions and car chases. It’s not only the best film ever to be made…on the Isle Man, but also one of the best British comedies in years.

Rating: 4/5
Mindhorn is released in the UK on Friday 5th May by StudioCanal
Watch the official Trailer here

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