2.5/5   US title: The Brothers Grimsby
dir Louis Leterrier
prd Sacha Baron Cohen, Nira Park
scr Sacha Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston, Peter Baynham
with Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Penelope Cruz, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Gabourey Sidibe, Ian McShane,Scott Adkins, Sam Hazeldine, Annabelle Wallis, Barkhad Abdi, Ricky Tomlinson
release UK 24.Feb.16, US 11.Mar.16
16/UK Sony 1h23
Brothers in arms: Strong and Baron Cohen

cruz fisher wilson
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Grimsby With broad humour and a scattershot approach, this British comedy feels badly compromised by its attempts to play to a variety of wider audiences, stirring in choppy action and unconvincing sentiment whenever the laughs wane. And without even a hint of edge, the movie pales in comparison to Sacha Baron Cohen's memorable creations like Ali G, Borat and Bruno.

In Grimsby, northern England, Nobby Butcher (Baron Cohen) has more passion for football and beer than his 9 or maybe 11 kids. Then he discovers long-lost brother Sebastian (Strong) is alive and working as a super-spy. Their reunion creates a violent mess, after which Nobby and Sebastian must clear their names and save the world from a terrorist threat. They travel to South Africa and Chile, chased by a ruthless henchman (Adkins) and an assassin (Hazeldine) hired by Sebastian's boss (McShane). But they get help from locals, Sebastian's smitten colleague (Fisher) and Nobby's hometown crew.

The humour that strikes a chord is the film's riotous pastiche of benefits fraudsters. Otherwise, the writers keep the comedy focussed on encounters with male genitalia, human and otherwise. Some of these gags are vulgar enough to elicit laughter simply because it's difficult to believe the filmmakers went there. But most of them (a running gag involving HIV or the repeated anal-insertion jokes) will amuse only the drunken, homophobic lager louts the film is making fun of.

Baron Cohen is terrific at playing a clueless fool who might not be as stupid as he looks. But this character feels underdeveloped. Nobby is inconsistent, never quite bridging the gap between relentless idiot and loving family man. Strong dives into his role completely, proving himself up for pretty much anything. But all of the other characters are barely sketched in. The women in particular are mere placeholders, never able to make anything of their characters' potential.

Transporter director Leterrier was an odd choice for this kind of movie, emphasising quick-cut action that involves brutal killing on a rather startling scale for a comedy. Indeed, there's the constant sense that the thriller side of this movie is determined to take over, even though it's utterly farcical. So with the odd addition of soft-focus backstory flashbacks, this movie rockets through so many genres that nothing gets a chance to stick properly. Although it will be impossible to stop talking about one gross-out sequence in particular.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 24.Feb.16

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