Where do those who are involved in the making of a one-hit wonder go? “Let me check what they’re up to” search for Richard Thornecroft, once famous as a detective in a TV series Mindhorn, would probably not return much but the sock ads. But even if he’s struggling to get a decent role, he still believes in his immaculate presence and skills that have been eclipsed by the series of interview quips and random choices he made when he was young.
The period of stagnation finishes when his agent gets a phone call, inviting Richard to recreate his landmark role. And it’s not your usual reboot request, either. The police on the Isle of Man struggles to solve a murder case, and the suspect refuses to speak to anyone but detective Mindhorn.
The movie follows a similar route to Birdman: criticising showbiz for being less than grateful for those who once made the headlines, it goes behind the scenes with a healthy dose of situational humour and snappy comebacks. When the titular character argues with his manager, pledging for a new role and not just another advertising opportunity, we hear such buzzwords as “raising your profile” and see celebs endorsing their brand-new range of products. And it instantly made me think of many, many instances when the actors actually turned it around with loads, loads of cheese sprinkled on top (have you seen John Cleese in a Polish bank advert, followed later by Gerard Depardieu? Thank me later). Could you imagine, say, Chuck Norris dealing with the same level of midlife crisis?
However, there’s much less existentialism, as it doesn’t preoccupy itself too much with the difficult questions – instead, it delivers laugh-out-loud moments a scene after a scene. Although it introduces us to the tangled relationships that Richard now tries to revive, having cut off all his ties to the Isle of Man before, it doesn’t deepen them very much. We know just enough for the film to work, and that’s as much a flaw as something that doesn’t overly complicate the easy ride filled with chuckles. It’s a steady pick for those who enjoy British comedy, too, with its absurd and wonderful weirdness, strange characters, and the strangest yet funniest twists.
Taking an aim of the eighties films and TV, Mindhorn captures the cheesiness that’s sometimes attached to some productions that we all know well (I couldn’t help but think of Moore’s and Dalton’s Bond films, and Hasselhoff’s Knight Reader or late Columbo that were beaten to death on Polish telly when I was a kid). Big, fantastic, futuristic tech gadgets, fantasy mixed with ridiculousness that the audience must accept to have fun at the movies, even talk-show bits that play in the main character’s imagination – all of that was ingeniously used for laughs, capturing the atmosphere pretty well, and capturing the feeling of nostalgia, too.
What about the cast? Julian Barratt is hilarious as his self-centred, deluded character, parodying the TV show superstar stereotype. When he receives the request from the local police, he’s torn between making it a PR stunt and making up to his ex-partner; later, he manages the character transformation without missing a beat. His grandiose attempts at recovering his own personal brand relentlessly mocked by his old co-workers, celebrity caprices (latte and mindfulness!), little quirks such as exclaiming “shoes on!” as a preparation for stepping into the showtime, create an utterly uproarious personality that we can’t help but root for.
Similarly, Russell Towey tears apart a geeky comic fanboy persona. Loads of social awkwardness and childish personality make him totally funny – and when he steps into his man cave, filled with Mindhorn merch, he slips into an eight-year-old-stuck-into-a-twentysomething-body role and makes the most of the contrast that fuels his dorkiness. And Simon Farnaby plays another hysterically hilarious character who finally gets his revenge. He tries to humiliate the faded superstar that ignored him for a long time with every word he utters – with terrific results. Sporting a funny accent and an abundance of cutting remarks for Richard up his sleeve, he provides for a competition for the lead.
Nailing the abundance of crazy characters who exchange witticisms every couple of seconds, Mindhorn is a fun flick that maintains the light-hearted goofiness throughout the film without ever overdoing it. With its understanding of stylistics which it mocks and taking an aim at the crueller side of showbiz, it brings us many laugh-out-loud moments executed finely for a surefire laid-back night out pick.
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