Saturday, 2 December 2017

MINDHORN (2017) - review


There's a peculiarity to British comedy, even the British sensibilities, that surfaces sometimes in the form of naffness. There's a joy in duel celebration/ridicule of the naff, the tacky, the lame. Think The Caravan Gallery and their love of the surreal every day occurrences, or Martin Parr's anthropological studies into the mythic and mundane. Think also Luxury Comedy and The Mighty Boosh, and its monsters with Polo's for eyes and heroes with plastic cups tapped to their chin. Surrealism may of started in France, but the British take it as a way of life.

Julian Barratt, from the aforementioned The Mighty Boosh, takes aim at the nostalgia for 80's TV shows in his latest film, co-written by Simon Farnaby and directed by Sean Foley. Mindhorn is a loving piss-take of the OTT American serials we all were kind of impressed by in our younger days, the likes of Starsky and Hutch and Knightrider. Barratt plays Richard Thorncroft, an actor whose biggest gig was as the titular Mindhorn, a kind-of cyborg detective, whose robotic eye can literally see the truth. Shot on the Isle of Man (not as glamorous as the US), the show was super successful, but after burning too many bridges, he is left a washed up has-been and selling orthopedic socks.


While given auditions guaranteed to fail by his disinterested agent, he is finally given a landline when a murderer on the Isle of Man says he will only work with the police if he can speak to Mindhorn, who he believes to be real. Sucking in his belly, Thorncroft dons the old eyepatch and makes his way back to the island he'd thought he'd turned his back on forever. It quickly transpires that everyone he left Hollywood for is doing much better than him, as ex-on-and-off screen lover Patricia (Essie Davis) is now a successful reporter, and his TV sidekick Windjammer (Steve Coogan) is much much richer and much more famous.

Not content with just helping the police, and probably actually committing some kind of crime, Thorncroft tries to get some photographs of him finding the killer, but lo! The apparent photographer is the killer! Where you may be led to believe that the film focuses on Thorncroft's bumbling attempts to help the police, the film focuses more on his awkward welcoming back into his past life. People have moved on, are much more successful, and the only person who seems to venerate his past successes is the killer.


My first watching of Mindhorn was slightly disappointing. The story is more about Thorncroft than the crime, and for a comedy, it wasn't that funny. I guess maybe I got the wrong end of the stick. Re-watching it however, and realising the film is all about Thorncroft and, to quote the director, about an "arsehole realising he's an arsehole", you realise that isn't so much played for laughs, but is instead kind of sad. This is what nostalgia looks like, a clown with fluff tapped to his head to satisfy a man trapped in his own time-loop, and a tacky parade to celebrate a half remembered TV-show (what ever happened to tacky parades?).

Part silly part serious, part funny part sad, Mindhorn may not be laugh-out-loud crime caper I thought it to be, but there is still merit in its message, and a affable watch for those that see the tragedy in the naff.

5/10

Layla

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