Comedic chameleon Sacha Baron Cohen probably won’t find too many friends in a certain North-East seaport right about now. Never far from controversy, the Borat and Ali G star’s latest flick, action-comedy Grimsby, directed by Now You See Me’s Louis Leterrier and co-starring Mark Strong, Rebel Wilson and Isla Fisher, sees the actor play a beer-bellied, dole boy, football hooligan, Nobby Butcher.
28 years after being split up as kids, Grimsby’s Butcher Boys are back together. Nobby’s search for his younger bro, Sebastian (Strong), finally reaches an end point as he interrupts his younger sibling in the midst of a super-secret mission, resulting in the latter’s position as an MI6 agent being compromised. Now on the run from his bosses and suspected, wrongly, of murder, the older Butcher must help his newly (re)found brother attempt to clear his name by tracking down the real killer.
From Kazakhstan’s most famous TV reporter to The Republic of Wadiya’s fearsome dictator, the Oscar nominated funny man has never been afraid to play with comedy fire. Even though his most recent efforts (Bruno and The Dictator) have fallen flat in comparison to the inventive Borat, there’s always been a layer of mad-cap satire to his work, taking aim at the stupid, gullible and vane.
Grimsby, however, sheds away any notion of intelligence or charm, bathing itself in the outrageous and disgusting. Strong’s straight-faced dramatic chops did work relatively well against Cohen’s limp impression of a benefit cheating, mutton chop-rocking hooligan, though it’s a performance that definitely believed it was funnier than it really was. Otherwise, barring an obvious James Bond riff and the occasional chuckle-worthy pop culture reference, its only worthwhile strength lies in its, admittedly impressive, shock factor.
Whether it’s an on-running AIDS gag or animal orgies, this action-comedy romp goes big, delivers occasionally, but has nothing under the bonnet. It will leave a funny taste in the mouth, but you’d be well-pressed, however hard you try, not to feel a dirty chuckle rising from your queasy gut.