If as divisive as yet less-shocking than Sacha Baron Cohen’s prior comedic ventures (Borat, Bruno, The Dictator), Grimsby provides intermittent laughs, though may prove too crude, scattershot and low-effort for many tastes.
Football hooligan Carl ‘Nobby’ Butcher (Cohen) has been searching for his long-lost younger brother Sebastian (Mark Strong) for almost 30 years when he finally manages to track him down. However, Sebastian is an MI6 agent, and after Nobby blows his cover, he’s forced to go into hiding…in the cesspool that is Grimsby, all while attempting to blow the lid off a global conspiracy.
A major added appeal of Grimsby from the outset is that it significantly ups the action quotient from Cohen’s typical fare, switching out his usual director collaborator Larry Charles for action filmmaker Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk, Now You See Me). Sadly, however, Leterrier stages much of the action through disappointingly disorientating first-person camera angles, and over-busy editing which makes most of the set-pieces headache-inducing. That’s not to say that there aren’t some gorgeous shots here that would fit snugly into any serious action flick, but as a whole the editing feels too frantic, and the evidently low visual effects budget only adds to the overall feeling of gaudiness.
In terms of gags, it’s all over the place. There are perhaps a handful of genuinely hysterical jokes – including two truly unforgettable sight gags – a ton of mildly amusing ones, and a bunch that simply fall flat with a thud, because all but the least-knowing audiences will be practically reciting the joke along with Cohen. He’s still fun to watch, but the wit and satire of his prior works feels comparably lacking here.
Still, hats off in particular to Mark Strong, who is fantastically game as the straight-man and in many ways upstages Cohen, sacrificing his dignity for our entertainment in ways you probably wouldn’t have expected from the steely tough-man. Rebel Wilson is also having plenty of fun mangling a northern English accent, even if she doesn’t deliver much outside of her well-established wheelhouse. Unfortunately, though, large chunks of the cast are summarily wasted; in particular, Penelope Cruz gets barely any screen time in a forgettable role, and Ian McShane doesn’t even touch the sides as an MI6 stuffed shirt.
Many will outright dismiss Grimsby because it’s tasteless, tacky and offensive, and that’s fine; if that’s your mindset then you probably won’t even bother watching the movie. Others, like myself, will find it a mixed bag which could have been smarter, and some will simply revel in the bonkers inanity of it all, all equally valid opinions by my estimation.
Here’s something most of us can agree on, though; that snappy 83-minute run-time was a damn good idea.
Grimsby is in UK cinemas now and US cinemas March 11th