UK Release Date: 4th September 2017
Runtime: 89 minutes
Director: Sean Foley
Writer: Julian Barratt, Simon Farnaby
Starring: Julian Barratt, Essie Davis, Russell Tovey, Simon Farnaby, Richard McCabe, Andrea Riseborough, Steve Coogan, Harriet Walter, David Schofield
Synopsis: A washed-up actor famous for playing a short-lived TV detective must take up the role again when a killer on the Isle of Man tells police he will only speak to Detective Mindhorn, whom he believes to be real.
Julian Barratt of The Mighty Boosh took on his biggest movie role to date earlier this year as the protagonist of the brilliantly silly comedy Mindhorn. After a very brief stint in UK cinemas and a straight-to-Netflix release in other parts of the world, the film is now out in the UK on download, with a DVD and Blu-ray release following next week. On the small screen, in fact, the character and the concept may have found their natural home.
Richard Thorncroft (Barratt) is a washed-up actor, who has received limited success since he was the star of 80s TV comedy Mindhorn, where he played a cybernetically-enhanced cop who could literally see the truth. When a killer (Russell Tovey) gets in touch with police on the Isle of Man, where the show was set, and demands to speak to Mindhorn, the police reluctantly bring in Thorncroft. While on the island, he reconnects with former lover Pat (Essie Davis) and stuntman Clive (Simon Farnaby), who are now living together, as well as former supporting player Pete (Steve Coogan), who is now the star of a successful spin-off.
On a second viewing, the delights and charms of Mindhorn far outweigh any quibbles with its cinematic presentation. There was a slightly strange feel to the film on the silver screen, with it often feeling like an over-stretched comedy sketch. With the benefit of the more forgiving small screen, though, the film’s comedic highlights are able to shine even brighter. Barratt’s deliriously odd performance is a joy to watch and he delivers obnoxious one-liners with gleeful abandon, completely disappearing into the character, before becoming increasingly Boosh-like as the film goes on.
The supporting characters, too, come alive even more on a second watch. Richard McCabe‘s coked-up PR guru is a joy to watch and Simon Farnaby’s outrageous European accent of unspecified origin produces plenty of laughs. All of the cast members embrace the shonky silliness with both arms, with Russell Tovey a particular highlight as the obsessive Paul Melly, who is prone to shrieking like a bird at inopportune moments. With such an enviable array of comic performers firing on all cylinders, Mindhorn is as consistently funny as it is infuriatingly ramshackle on a visual level.
Everything that makes Mindhorn a flawed movie is also what brings about its charm. Sean Foley feels like a TV director more than a filmmaker, but he certainly knows how to direct fast-moving comedic banter and brings a real joy to the scenes of characters racing around the Isle of Man in weird costumes. Running jokes work really nicely, as well, with Tovey’s character’s plasticine contraptions appearing with hilarious regularity and Thorncroft’s disdain for the island providing a constant stream of humour.
On a second viewing, the flawed elements of Mindhorn fall into the background and leave behind a very enjoyable British indie comedy. When many British films, even in the comedy sphere, take the darker tone of something like Free Fire or Prevenge, it’s actually quite pleasing to see a film like this, which is as light-hearted as this. Writing duo Barratt and Farnaby know what film they’re making and they embrace that wholeheartedly. It’s like a 1960s Doctor Who episode held together with the sticky back plastic from Blue Peter.
There’s quite a fun selection of stuff on here, including an in-character PSA from Barratt encouraging people away from piracy and various featurettes about the conception and making of the film. We also get a gloriously 80s music video for Thorncroft’s song ‘You Can’t Handcuff the Wind’, which simply has to be seen to be believed.
Pop or Poop?
In its natural home of your television screen, Mindhorn excels in ways it never could when exposed on the big screen. The charming performances, parochial charm and oddball humour are a delight. Julian Barratt has finally found a post-Boosh home for his unique comedy tone and he’s found an ideal writing buddy in Simon Farnaby.
As a loving ode to campy cop shows, it works brilliantly and as a loving piss-take of the Isle of Man, it’s equally enjoyable. This is as British as buttered crumpets and as silly as a Christmas cracker joke told by Tommy Cooper.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Mindhorn is available on download in the UK now and from September 4 on Blu-ray/DVD, courtesy of Studiocanal.