Film review – Grimsby

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GRIMSBY

Low-brow comedy caper about a work-shy northern chav and his long-lost brother, re-united after 28 years to discover they’ve led very different lives. Starring Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Rebel Wilson and Penelope Cruz.

International espionage has long been a comedic arena in Hollywood, from the original Casino Royale – a knockabout romp starring Woody Allen and David Niven as young and old James Bond – through Austin Powers, Johnny English and Kingsman, right up to last year’s superb Spy, starring Melissa McCarthy.
Tying it in with a gritty northern fishing town, though ?
Well, at least that’s new …

The writer and star of the show is Sacha Baron Cohen, aka Ali G, aka Borat.
Never the most subtle purveyor of laughs, Cohen actually has a lot of talent as a character actor and proved it in the stunning Hugo, in which he played a twitchy policeman with great restraint and coiled aggression. This time out, he’s northern-ing it up as the football-mad, beer-swilling, firework-loving father of nine, Nobby Butcher …
He’s a simple man but also one who’s also troubled by his past as we get to learn over the course of the picture.

The plot centres on Nobby’s desire to find out what happened to his younger brother and he gets his first clue after 28 years when someone “down south” sees him at a “posh do” in London. Scrounging a ticket for an upcoming charity gala in the capital, Nobby heads south to try to trace his missing sibling and put an end to his sadness for good.

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Sebastian Butcher has changed.
He now works for a black-ops off-shoot of MI6 and is mid-mission when Nobby turns up, with predictably disastrous steps.
Forced to go on the run, Nobby suggests they hole up in Grimsby – a hell-hole, after all, at least if you believe everything you see on screen. As the story unfolds, the locations change, taking in South Africa and Chile, as the brothers team up to foil an international crime syndicate’s evil plan to drastically reduce the world’s population by ridding it of the “scum element” which mainly seems to be football fans and people living in places like, er, Grimsby …

The resulting movie is surprisingly good.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Ali G nor of Borat, but with Grimsby – or The Brothers Grimsby as it’s known internationally, presumably because the rest of the world has never heard of the town itself – he’s surrounded himself with serious acting talent and co-written the script with Phil Johnston, who wrote the excellent Wreck-It Ralph and the upcoming Zootopia.
The key to Grimsby is that everyone else plays it straight.
I mean dead straight. Right down the line.
Mark Strong is superb as Sebastian and makes you wonder what it would’ve been like to have a bald Bond – discounting Mr Connery, of courshhh.
He obviously had some serious training for the role and was a natural as the super-spy.
Brit comedy regulars John Thompson, Ricky Tomlinson and Jonny Vegas play minor parts as Grimsby-dwellers, while Hollywood heavyweight Penelope Cruz provides some stardust as charity head, Rhonda George. Rebel Wilson makes an excellent northern “bird”, while Ian McShane is the shadowy head of the MI6 department hunting his rogue ex-agent.

The South African leg of their world tour is seriously silly and absolutely hilarious.
In one segment the hapless duo have to quickly improvise a hiding-place and it turns into one of the biggest laughs I’ve ever known in a cinema. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and everyone was squirming too, but no spoilers from me .. if you need one excuse to persuade someone to see this film, just tell them this is the funniest scene since Life Of Brian.

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Yes, it’s low-brow.
Yes, it’s mildy offensive.
But it’s not grossly offensive like many American dumb-down comedies.
In fact, I don’t honestly see how anyone from Grimsby can be offended by the movie. It’s just more British self-deprecation if you ask me. Anyone who’s watched the picture and complained afterwards should consider shows like Mock The Week, Have I Got News For You, The Fast Show, Harry Enfield, Catherine Tate, etc .. because they’re all just as guilty. We like to poke fun at ourselves, don’t we ? It’s one of our national pastimes, after all.
I guess it’s a bit like family – you can make jokes between yourselves, but if anyone from outside does it you close ranks and protect your own. Maybe if Cohen wasn’t a Londoner and, say, Peter Kay had made it and called it “Bolton” or John Bishop had made it and called it “Merseyside” then it would’ve been more readily accepted, but to me that’s splitting hairs. Cohen’s a Brit. End of.

I can’t really say much more about the plot other than it’s very well handled and there’s actually a good deal of pathos in the picture. The relationship between the two brothers is deep and meaningful, although it’s sent up throughout Grimsby, while the spirit of community and importance of family is never less than 100%.

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Far from being a grim watch, the movie is uplifting as well as very, very funny indeed.
Like I said, I can’t remember the last time a whole auditorium laughed so much. Maybe it’s because – for once – it’s a British comedy we’re enjoying, rather than the typical knuckle-dragging US vehicles for the likes of Seth MacFarlane and Will Ferrell.
It’s also original, unlike the countless remakes such as the desperate Dad’s Army, which was so bad I couldn’t even summon the will to write a review for it ..

Whatever.
Stop reading this now and go and see Grimsby.
Take your funniest friends and family with you. Tell everyone you know.
It’s that good …

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