Mindhorn (2016) is a must-see for any fan of all reputable British satire from the last decade, corny synth soundtracks and 80s schlock. It is probably the best British comedy since The Double, which was the best since Four Lions.
Written by and starring both Julian Barrett and Simon Farnaby, Mindhorn somehow manages to inspire the age-old washed-up actor plot into a farcical new light.
Barrett plays Richard Thorncroft, a failing actor who was previously famous for playing the eponymous character of the fictional detective show Mindhorn. The Mighty Boosh star gives this despicable heap of bleating misery a perfect comic wit, giving awkward charm to even the bleakest aspects of Thorncroft. Where one might see Thorncroft’s bumbling through life somehow managing to land himself in delightfully embarrassing situations akin to much British situational comedy, Barrett adds a surreal edge that a lot of this common satire is missing.
Beginning with a look into Thorncroft’s life 20-odd years after his role in the averagely successful show, he exists in an unobliging regret of what a failed elope to Hollywood and rebuttal of the marriage to the love of his life, Essie Davis (who is coincidentally now married to his ex-stuntman, Simon Farnaby’s character), brung. With no acting prospects on the horizon and essentially becoming the joke that all actors losing touch try fervently to avoid, Thorncroft accepts a role in a real police chase to try and find the serial killer known as ‘The Kestrel’. This invitation takes him to Mindhorn’s old hunting ground, the Isle of Man, and asks him to rehash his magnum opic role in order to entice the suspected killer, played by Russell Tovey and also a Mindhorn fanatic. Hilarious hijinks ensue and a lot of old blood is brought up with this endeavor.
Coincidentally, a lot of the original Mindhorn cast live on the Isle of Man. This includes both Essie Davis and Simon Farnaby, who now have a child in which Thorncroft is certain is his, and Steve Coogan, an actor from Mindhorn whose character’s spin-off show launched him into the stratosphere.
The exuberant plot line is met with a certain Garth Marenghi feel as there is definitely something being mocked here, but what that is is constantly changing. This can range from the corniness of detective dramas such as Columbo, the classic Partridgean comedy or the matter of fact life in suburbia for a wannabe megastar, among other things.
The film is entirely funny and farcical, with both what you see and what you hear (sound effects and soundtrack alike), and it would seem that it is more than just a run of the mill British comedy. Harking back in its inspirations as far as The Goonies and Pythons, Mindhorn is set to be a landmark in UK comedy. It hopefully will open up the barriers for where the comedy industry’s direction in the UK may lie.
Coupled with Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Nathan Barley and a host of others there seems to be rise in a comedy that is smart, but not as black and subtle as other current trends in T.V. and cinema would dictate.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby/ Sean Foley
STARS: Julian Barratt, Sean Foley, Russell Tovey, Steve Coogan
RUNTIME: 90 mins approx.
COUNTRY: United Kingdom