Running Time: 89 mins
Reviewer: David Gillespie – Official HCF Artist
First-time director Simon Foley and actor/ writer Simon Farnaby took to their seats amongst another full house at the Glasgow Film Festival for a showing of the highly anticipated Julian Barratt comedy, Mindhorn. After the Mighty Boosh fan base in the audience sighed disappointedly with the news that Barratt would not be attending the screening, the curtains opened for the surreal and slapstick delights of what could well spawn a sequel or potential TV venture. When I asked Foley and Farnaby about any further adventures for the titular hero they acknowledged that if they got the box office response that they hoped for then they could certainly foresee many directions to take the conceited and bumbling character.
The story follows a washed up actor called Richard Thorncroft (Barratt), struggling to make ends meet and languishing in a London bedsit surrounded by action figures and memorabilia from his glory days in the detective show, Mindhorn. A combination of Bergerac and the Six Million Dollar Man, the super detective has the power to unearth the truth from suspects or enemies via a mechanical device implanted in his damaged eye. His show is an international success and wins him the heart of the dishy female lead, Patricia Deville (Essie Davis – Babadook). Twenty-five years on and Thorncroft’s biggest gig has been modelling orthopaedic socks. With a drinking problem, dodgy comb-over and estranged from his beloved Patricia, things are looking grim for our hero until a mental imbalanced killer called The Kestrel (Russell Tovey) demands that the local police contact Mindhorn as a negotiator for his demands. It seems the criminal has been brought up on Mindhorn’s shows and believes the character to be a real detective. Thorncroft seizes the chance to gain publicity, sign the DVD rights of the Mindhorn franchise to wealthy co-star (Steve Coogan) and to make contact with Patricia who has since built a successful career as a journalist and settled down with his jealous, sleazy stuntman (a Dutch sounding Simon Farnaby). It isn’t long before Throncroft’s overblown ego and mindlessness damage the investigation, any potential business deal and his chances of a romantic reconciliation with his true love. He also discovers that The Kestrel may be the key to something far more sinister festering within the island. Will this be the last case for the super detective? Well…no, as I said, there may be a sequel.
Mindhorn’s strength could well be its downfall in attaining a global audience. Barratt and Farnaby’s script is hilariously surreal and full of nods and winks to the 70’s and 80’s detective shows such as Bergerac, Shoestring and The Avengers that only a British audience would recognise. Yet the story’s many twists and surprises should be enough to engage the punters.
The comedy is overwhelmingly British too. Thorncroft is of a similar mould to the arrogant and deluded imbecile that we have seen in the likes of Alan Partridge, Johnny English and David Brent. Barratt is wonderful in the role, having the freedom to express his inner idiot after playing the straight man in the comedy series, The Mighty Boosh. He also gives us enough character and dimension to Thorncroft that you do grudgingly sympathise with his plight. The supporting cast, especially Davis and Farnaby, work extremely well and there is fun to be had with the odd cameo including Simon Callow and Kenneth Brannagh.
I can’t wait to find out if Mindhorn becomes a hit. It is something of a rarity in the comedy world by offering something new and fresh. It is a strong candidate for ‘comedy of the year’ and a sure-fire cult favourite.