Mindhorn Film Review – ★★★★
If the successes of the Cornetto Trilogies, or more recently Alpha Papa, have told us anything about the Great British psyche, it’s that we don’t like winners very much. The more failed the personality and the more naff the setting, the more comedy prevails here in Blighty. Which is why, just from the premise of Mindhorn alone, we knew we were in for a treat.
Mighty Boosh co-creator Julian Barrett stars as Richard Thorncroft, a washed-up actor who peaked with hit 1980s detective show ‘Mindhorn’. Having been at the top of his game and destined for Hollywood after playing the titular Isle of Man sleuth with the rather unique ability to literally ‘see the truth’ through his lie-detecting eye, Thorncroft is now living in a bedsit in Walthamstow, down on his luck and up on weight.
Decades after losing it all, Thorncroft is still desperate to make it to the big time, and the chance arrives when he’s asked to once again don the laser eye and head back to the Isle of Man as a deranged Manx criminal, known only as ‘The Kestrel… SQUAWK’, says he will only speak to ‘Detective Mindhorn.’ Buoyed by the exposure, Thorncroft heads back to the scene of his greatest triumph for one last chance to reignite his glory days and professional credibility.
If you think you’ve heard this one before then you’re not the only one. Parallels between Mindhorn and Alan Partridge have been thrown at the film and quite honestly, they’re not all that unfounded. But nor are they unwelcomed. All the Partridge signatures are here: Likeable washed-up lead trying to make it back to the big time? Check. Former big fish celeb in small town pond? Check.
But, if like us, the idea of the Mighty Boosh doing Alan Partridge sounds, well… brilliant, then Mindhorn delivers in bucketsful. You know the sort of film you’re in for as soon as you enter the cinema. And to illustrate the point, even the fake Isle of Man Films logo which shines on screen at the start of Mindhorn raised a chuckle in the showing we went to.
Julian Barratt co-wrote the film alongside Boosh member Simon Farnaby, who also stars in the film as his camp, scantily –clad rival, Clive Parnevik. And with the pair steeped in British sitcom culture, it’s no surprise to see the influence in Mindhorn either. As well as the awkwardness of The Office, there’s also a touch of genuine League of Gentleman creepiness when Thorncroft finds himself literally imprisoned in the Mindhorn costume towards the film’s finale.
We should say, there’s no reinventing of the genre here. There’s some nice relationships going on, mainly with Mindhorn’s former lover played by Essie Davis, and most successfully with his washed-up agent played by Richard McCabe. There’s also some great cameos from some British greats, including Kenneth Branagh, Simon Callow and, ironically enough, Steve Coogan. But more than anything, Mindhorn is funny. Very, very funny.
The gags and shtick do tire somewhat towards its finale, but Mindhorn is carried throughout by Barrett’s brilliantly nuanced performance as Thorncroft/Mindhorn. He’s cocky, yes, but he’s also so desperately un-self-aware that you just don’t care. His delivery is superb and while some of the set-pieces are outrageously silly, they’re done with such commitment of naffness, you’re never rolling your eyes.
Mindhorn is released in cinemas around the UK on Friday 5th May.