A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Louis Leterrier
Written By: Sacha Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston
Produced By: Sacha Baron Cohen, Peter Baynham, Ant Hines, Nira Park, Todd Schulman
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Rebel Wilson, Penélope Cruz
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Past incarnations of the controversial but undeniably talented Sacha Baron Cohen have caused a sizeable stir amongst some audiences, and with good reason. Yet beneath all the smutty humour that relies entirely on the shock factor and reaction to taboo shattering, there was something to latch on to which seemed justified.
Granted, it may take some time to locate exactly what is, but it is possible to sift through all the excrement, bodily fluids and unfathomably disturbing imagery and find something somewhat profound, even if it’s the most minuscule of examples.
Finding something remotely resonant or profound within Bruno is the cinematic equivalent of a needle in a haystack, however the fact remains that something is still in there to find!
Regrettably, Cohen’s latest is a misfire in that regard, and it’s ironically the case because The Brothers Grimsby, again, beneath all the excrement, bodily fluids and unfathomably disturbing imagery, is a story about family, love and being proudly underclass; and it goes out of it’s way to remind you of that.
From Ali G to Borat, to Brüno, to The Dictator and now the soccer hooligan Nobby Butcher, Sacha Baron Cohen has tackled various stereotypes and found enormous success, even if he appeals his niche whilst the rest of us carry on with enjoying more universal forms of humour.
Personally, some of his work is rather appealing, primarily because it is obvious how much he dedicates himself to the role and the subtleties of their world.
Knowing how brilliant an actor he is in films such as Sweeney Todd, Les Misérables and Hugo, there is a level of appreciation for products such as Borat and even Ali G that transition over from his more serious or respectable outings. For The Brothers Grimsby, there are certainly elements to appreciate, even admire.
The character of Nobby may be his least interesting because of his less universally appealing qualities, however certain technical aspects of the film are unlike anything we’ve ever seen before on screen.
With action-savvy director Louis Leterrier at the helm, the film’s fast-paced, rocketing action sequences are avant-garde works of mastery, and that’s not a joke! Taking the first-person style out of the realm of video gaming and into the cinematic medium was an inevitability for sure, but who would’ve thought we’d be seeing this level of excellence for the first time in a Sacha Baron Cohen comedy about a lager-drinking deadbeat who spends a significant portion of the film stuck in the uterus of an elephant!
The film is split into two modes; that being full-blown, unapologetic action mode and slow-paced, dorky comedy mode. Cohen of course occupies the latter, but finds himself drifting into the world of his estranged super spy brother played by Mark Strong, causing an enormous rift in both of lives. A strange mismatch on paper and an undoubtedly hard sell for producers, The Brother’s Grimsby is a mess of a film with a painfully weak narrative and a criminal underuse of Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane and the Oscar-nominated Gabourey Sidibe, however it isn’t a complete failure.
In what is the film’s attempt at an emotional undercurrent, flashbacks tell the story of how the inseparable Butcher brothers split as children. Whilst these flashbacks are crafted rather satisfacorally, they simply do not generate any form of emotional reaction or resonance when observed in the bigger picture.
It was drawing a long bow when a film with one of the most grotesque and shocking sequences put to screen in recent memory involving an elephant tried to play any sort of emotional trump card (speaking of the devil; the U.S. Presidential candidate does in fact make a cameo which is sure to cause some controversy).
Where the film works ever so slightly is with the depiction and believability of the heavily satirised underclass town of Grimsby. Personified through Nobby himself, the portrayal of scum, bottle of the barrel, lowest common denominator status is furthered through highly unappealing scenery set to numerous underclass anthems such as Blur’s Parklife, Oasis’ Cigarettes & Alcohol and Our House by Madness, which are all nice touches.
Above all of the nice touches and appreciation for Cohen’s work ethic, the real hero here is Mark Strong. An unexpected, brave and potentially career threatening move for the highly gifted and respected actor, Strong plays the role of the stern, suave and stereotypical British super spy without fault.
Credit where credit is due, Strong doesn’t phone in his performance and endures an enormous amount of crudeness, embarrassment and purely vile on-screen nonsense alongside Cohen, keeping himself in character the entire time.
Some of the situations he finds himself in are simply incomprehensible when thinking of an actor of such a calibre as Strong, but he puts on brave face and endures it; that deserves some high praise.
Whilst The Brothers Grimsby may be considered a misfire for Sacha Baron Cohen, it really hasn’t deviated from the norm when observing his back catalogue. It simply boils down to the character not being an enormous drawcard for audiences across the globe, or at least those who still enough energy in the tank to revisit the contentious actor’s crazy and shocking world once again.
It’s undoubtedly not one of his best, but certain handpicked moments show that he hasn’t given up with his somewhat intelligent antics just yet.
Whether or not that’s a good thing is completely subjective…