Director : Louis Leterrier
Year Of Release : 2016
Principal Cast : Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Penelope Cruz, Rebel Wilson, Gabourey Sidibe, Annabelle Wallis, Ian McShane, David Harewood, Ricky Tomlinson, Johnny Vegas.
Approx Running Time : 93 minutes
Synopsis: A new assignment forces a top spy to team up with his football hooligan brother.
Grimsby, known in some territories as The Brothers Grimsby, is an awful, odious, execrable piece of shit. As an exercise in comedic technique, it is gratuitous and grasping at rancid, putrid air in its desperation to out-gross the audience every spare second it can waste. For a film running some 90 minutes, it has exceptionally few chuckles, even for Cohen. It’s the kind of film stoned teenage boys will adore for its idiocy, offering zero intellect and an altogether bizarre decision to include a protracted elephant semen gag that simply has to be seen to be believed. If some comedy is aimed at the lowest common denominator, Grimsby sets its sights an order of magnitude lower than that.
Cohen plays British redneck layabout Nobby Butcher, who lives with wife Dawn (Rebel Wilson) and their enormous brood in the small UK town of Grimsby. Nobby’s estranged brother, Sebastian (Mark Strong), has become a British MI6 Agent, comes to discover that popular philanthropist Rhonda George (Penelope Cruz) is about to be assassinated by an evil organisation known as the Malestrom Syndicate. Sebatsian attempts to intervene, but is inadvertently hobbled by his long-lost brother; blamed for the shooting of a young AIDS ambassador and the death of a UN official, Sebastian tracks across the country with Nobby in tow, to stop Malestrom from completing their evil plan to make this film funny.
It’s hard to believe this film came from the same guy who gave us The Incredible Hulk and The Transporter. Actually, considering Leterrier is also the guy who gave us Clash of The Titans, maybe it isn’t hard to believe Grimsby could be birthed from his increasingly desperate career. What’s utterly beyond doubt, however, is that avant garde comedian and all-round controversy magnet Sacha Baron Cohen has slammed into the brick wall of obsolescence in trying to generate laughs in a straight-up narrative film. Although his supporting roles in films such as Hugo, Sweeney Todd and Les Miserables has garnered praise in most circles, and his “reality characters”, such as Bruno, Borat and Ali G have been hits with audiences around the globe, Cohen’s ability to achieve similar success with more traditional comedic style has fallen utterly flat.
Grimsby contains within it two of this years biggest disgraces. First, and most assuredly the worst: Mark Strong’s how-the-f@ck-did-he-agree-to-this casting as Cohen’s on-screen brother. Strong, who’s carved a career as a big-screen hardman in films such as Kick-Ass, Kingsman, and period drama The Young Victoria looks embarrassed to be here, particularly in any scene in which he’s with Cohen. I’ve always considered Strong to be a leading man in waiting, only he’s never been given the opportunity, and if I was him I’d be firing my agent after this disaster. Because sure as shit he’s done his career a major disservice with Grimsby.
The second disgrace in this film is its utter disregard of the audience. In an act of pretension, Cohen not only produces, but writes Grimsby as well, so one might imagine the guffaws and chuckles he had hunched over his keyboard typing out a sequence in which he, Strong and elephant ejaculate share the same frame of film. In his attempt to skewer lower-class British living, the Bond-esque action aesthetic and a reaaaaaaly stretched sense of frat-brother bonding, Cohen’s mish-mash approach to juvenile lowbrow laughs and occasionally nuanced on-point commentary strikes a horrifyingly uneven tone and an even worse sense of humour. Everything from giving Daniel Radcliffe HIV, a groaner Bill Cosby jab, constant references to sexual activity and a sequence involving Cohen and Strong inside the vaginal canal of a female elephant (re-read this sentence again if you just snorted coffee out your nose) prior to, and I quote, “an elephant bukkake party”, all convey a sense of desperation from Cohen, writing the material with such a disregard for the people in the film as well as those unfortunate enough to watch it, it’s staggering to behold.
Cohen is wise enough to play for the cheap seats, which I suspect is where a lot of the film’s humour will land with uproarious cackling, but I found it genuinely painful to endure. The smattering of quality actors surrounding Cohen in this travesty alleviate the frustration marginally, but seeing the likes of Ian McShane (Pirates Of The Caribbean: on Stranger Tides), Oscar-winner Gabourey Sidibe, and astonishingly underrated Penelope Cruz slum it in this ill-gotten money-trap is just shameful. Typically with a star-driven vehicle such as this, Cohen gets the haul of jokes (although Rebel Wilson steals her scenes) at the expense of everyone else (no exceptions), unwilling to share the pain of his wretched comedic timing with anyone else.
Grimsby’s one redeeming feature – and it’s a stretch to call it that – is director Louis Leterrier’s work on giving this cinematic ablution the energy to make it to the credits. Action sequences are frantic and modern in framing and editing (a furiously combative opening introductory scene for Strong’s Sebastian plays like a cross between Casino Royale’s parkour sequence and The Raid), and the “spy” guff certainly has that polished slickness we’ve come to expect these days. But the lengthy Grimsby-set scenes bring things to a complete stop, a thundering brake-squeal of tractionless friction that not even Leterrier’s overly cataclysmic sensibility can overcome. The man can certainly helm an action sequence, but his work on the “comedy” feels clumsy and tone-deaf rather than convincingly funny.
For me, Sacha Baron Cohen is a comic of acquired taste, and more often than not I’m indifferent to his work. But I’m usually willing to give him a go, because of Borat and Ali G. Grimsby fails as a constructed comedy in the same way Hitler failed as a human being. Contemptuous of its audience, ribald for no good reason, replete with some excruciating gross-out humour (“suck my balls” screams Mark Strong’s character after being stuck in the groin with a poison dart…. ugh) and lacking coherent tone and logic: Grimsby is an inexcusable flaming turd dressed as fun and entertainment that lacks charm or wit to achieve either.