Friday, 25 March 2016

Movie Review: Grimsby (2016)



Sacha Baron Cohen: Julliard-trained artist who seems tailor-made to star in modern-day movie musicals. Or, if you go by the majority of films where he is the lead actor, a professional troll with the comparable intelligence of the average Youtube commenter. Seriously, look at his in-character work like Borat, Bruno and The Dictator, and then look at his other roles in Sweeney Todd, Les Miserables and even his non-singing role in Hugo. This isn’t so much a showcase of range, as much as it is possible evidence of a secret twin sibling and/or malformed cloning experiment. For the record, I like a fair bit of Sacha’s work; I mean, Borat is probably one of the better mockumentaries to have been made and Bruno’s talking penis has burned into my brain ever since I first watched it. Sure, I’d much rather hear that voice put to Sondheim than to sophomore, but I have a certain appreciation for his style of extremely abrasive sense of humour. Still, even with that in mind, today’s film isn’t looking too good, to the point where all I can hope for is that Mark Strong finds a way to salvage this whole thing. One can only hope that he doesn’t have to. This is Grimsby.

The plot: After 28 years apart, Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen) has finally found his long-lost younger brother Sebastian (Mark Strong). Thing is, not only is Sebastian a top-level MI-6 operative but is also under suspicion of being a rogue agent after an assassination attempt went awry (thanks to Nobby, no less). As Nobby tries to reconnect with his brother after so long apart, Sebastian realizes that maybe he misses his sibling a lot more than he thought he did.

Well, given how we’re dealing with Baron Cohen this time round, might as well start with him. If nothing else, I am at least thankful that he has kept his rather bizarre knack for keeping his caricatures on the right side of annoying; yeah, he’s abrasive but not to the point where you can’t stand looking at him for the length of the film. Opposite him is Mark Strong and, honestly, this film kind of works if you just imagine it as a prequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service, as Strong’s straight-man routine ends up salvaging an awful lot of dud one-liners. Isla Fisher is mercifully reduced to a minor role, which after how much she grew to annoy pretty much everyone in Australia throughout 2015 can only be seen as a good thing, and Rebel Wilson is likewise sidelined for the majority of the film. Although, if I’m being fair, she ain’t half bad at the accent she’s given. Aside from a few other potentially recognizable faces like Penelope Cruz, once again in an unfathomably silly spy caper, Ian McShane who just acts aghast to everything going on around him and Johnny Vegas for some inexplicable reason showing, the only other real person of note here is the facsimile of Daniel Radcliffe that is used for one of the film’s running gags. Given how said gag turns out, I’m not surprised he didn’t get involved himself but, then again, this is the guy who starred in Equus; surely, he’s used to weird scenarios like this.

And speaking of fucking around with animals (how’s that for a segue?), time to get into the putrid and fleshy core of this film that is its sense of humour. Now, after my spiel involving Dirty Grandpa and its immense odour of try-hard, I was expecting to get a similar reaction from this and I… kind of did? I mean, yeah, this film has a similar aura that it’s reaching for shock humour, except this doesn’t feel like it’s needlessly grabbing for everything it can. Whereas Dirty Grandpa was all surface, this gets right into the visceral side of things in oh so many more ways than one. This film shocks through how much it shows and, if such gross-out humour does it for you, then this is where you can get your… fill. Trust me, after watching this, you’ll get a bit queasy at that sentence as well. While there are quite a lot of gags that don’t work as well as others, I’ll freely admit that this actually got some laughs with its sheer vulgarity. In all honesty, it’s almost refreshing to see a film that feels fit doing more than just talking about graphic shit; after seeing so many talky “comedies” that ended up on the wrong side of offensive, this is a relief by comparison. That said, yeah, if incest and bestiality squick you out, it’s little wonder if you’ll want to avoid this one.

Does this film have anything else to it aside from “the goggles, they do nothing!”? Well, given how the director Louis Leterrier was also behind the first two Transporter movies, you’d expect some decent action in the mix as well. Unfortunately not. Instead, we get this lame gimmick of Sebastian’s eye lens giving a FPS view of the fight scenes, which are so disorientingly shaky that you can barely make out what’s going on. It’s still nice seeing Mark Strong kick arse, but it would nicer if we could see it a tad more clearly. We also have the quickly-becoming-overused rogue spy action story to contend with, but thankfully the film oddly treats that particular aspect of the plot as an afterthought. Considering the many trailers for this film that end up spoiling one of its bigger plot twists, this can only be a good thing in the long run. There’s also the running theme of family and togetherness between Nobby and Sebastian and, while it can arrive on screen like a speeding train at certain points, it does lead to some decent moments between them. Hey, at the end of the day, Baron Cohen and Strong are still good actors and their chemistry is admittedly rather nice here. Then there’s the throwaway bit of soapboxing about how great the lower class are and how they shouldn’t be written off, even though mocking the lower class makes a decent chunk of the film’s humour. Honestly though, a British action film that ends on a note of celebrating humanity at its very worst? We already have a The World’s End, and this is most definitely not that good.

All in all, while easily written off as a massive gross fest and nothing more (and that’s not exactly an unfair assessment), it has some surprisingly redeeming elements to it. The two leads are solid and have some decent banter here and there and their respective arcs relating to each other’s characters is honestly a lot stronger than this kind of film deserves. That said though, the action is weak and slightly nauseating, the comedy is crass and even more nauseating and the plot, removed of themes of familial bonding, is one that we’ve been getting way too much of lately. It all ends up evening out to just being an okay sit. It’s better than Triple 9 as this doesn’t feel like it’s missing out on its own opportunities; this sees them and dives right in, whether the audience wants it to or not. However, while technically a weaker product considering how much it also doesn’t cash in on, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies made for a slightly more entertaining sit with far less elephant play to weigh it down.

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