Directed by Sean Foley
Written by Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby
Cast – Julian Barratt, Essie Davis, Russell Tovey, Andrea Riseborough, Simon Farnaby, Steve Coogan
It’s always a pleasure to see an idea as brilliantly daft as Mindhorn make it into mainstream cinema, but it’s even more enjoyable when that concept is carried through with as much commitment and authenticity as it is here. The film tells the story of Richard Thorncroft, once lauded as the sex symbol hero of 80’s tv hit Mindhorn, now a balding, paunchy has been, debasing himself at auditions for roles he has no business attempting. Fortunately for Richard, a deranged killer on the Isle of Man is convinced that Mindhorn is a real detective and will only negotiate with him, leading the police to reluctantly invite Throncroft back to the Island to reprise his role, and confront the figures from his past he abandoned in pursuit of fleeting fame.
This film fits perfectly into the British comedy tradition of delusional pomposity, containing elements of Alan Partridge and Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace, as well as an affectionate parody of the naffness of 1980’s tv detectives like Bergerac and Lovejoy. The detail put into the Mindhorn character, with his eye that can “literally see the truth”, shoe donning ritual and health endangering merchandise, all contribute to a hilarious realism, as does the Isle of Man setting for some underwhelming attempts at action heroics from Throncroft.
The cast are uniformly brilliant, from Riseborough’s exasperated detective, to Farnaby and Coogan’s smug antagonists. However, the central trio of Barratt, Davis and Tovey deserve particular praise for the balance of comedy and pathos in their performances. Barratt is excellent throughout, giving Thorncroft just the right level of dickishness to justify some of the hostility he encounters, but communicating through his manic smile and pleading eyes a level of desperation that keeps the audience on his side. Davis, as Pat Deville, former love interest of the Mindhorn character, and the woman Thorncroft abandoned for fame, is great as usual, moving from wry amusement at his attempts to reconnect, to a sense of opportunities lost and lingering affection for a flawed man. Lastly, Tovey as “The Kestrel” moves seamlessly from threatening to childlike and back again, with plot revelations constantly shifting the audience’s perception of the character.
Mindhorn is a very enjoyable ninety minutes at the cinema. If you’re a fan of Barratt’s work on The Mighty Boosh and the melancholy Flowers, you’ll find a lot of comic gold in this new character. The plot is engaging, the cast are funny, and best of all it’s an original, non-franchise idea that deserves to be seen and enjoyed by as many people as possible.
Calum Maclean, 7 May 2017