dir Sean Foley
scr Julian Barratt, Simon Farnaby
prd Jack Arbuthnott, Laura Hastings-Smith
with Julian Barratt, Essie Davis, Andrea Riseborough, Simon Farnaby, Russell Tovey, Steve Coogan, Jessica Barden, Richard McCabe, Robin Morrissey, Nicholas Farrell, Kenneth Branagh, Simon Callow
release UK 5.May.17
16/UK BBC 1h29
Glory days: Barratt and Davis

riseborough tovey coogan
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Mindhorn There are hilarious moments scattered throughout this pastiche police procedural comedy-thriller, but the overall tone never quite gels to provide enough energy to get the audience all the way to the end. Once the gag is established, the plot and characters simply don't have enough depth or interest to sustain very much interest. But it is amusing.

As an actor, Richard (Barratt) found fame as Mindhorn, a late-1980s TV detective with a "cyber truth-seeing eye". Now all these years later he's been called back to the Isle of Man by Detective Baines (Riseborough), who's investigating a killer (Tovey) who will only negotiate with the fictional cop. Seeing this as a chance to resurrect his stalled career, Richard reconnects with his agent Geoffrey (McCabe) and leading lady Patricia (Davis), who is now married to his old stand-in (Farnaby). But his now famous former sidekick (Coogan) wants nothing to do with him.

All of the actors play their characters with deadpan wit and impeccable timing. Barratt is such a blustering moron as Richard that he can't help but be loveable. On the other hand, he's so egocentric that he's never remotely likeable. His interaction with Davis and Farnaby is both silly and brittle. Meanwhile, Riseborough charges through the film as the only serious character in a sea of buffoons, which is amusing in its own way. And Tovey and Coogan make the most of their rather one-note cartoon characters.

Along the way, director Foley throws in lots of witty touches. There are nice side roles for Farrell (as a preening mayor) and Barden (as Patricia's surly daughter), plus some solid laughs when Branagh and Callow pop up as spoof versions of themselves. The pastiche scenes of 1980s TV nail the tone hilariously. So it's rather odd that the rest of the movie continues to be just as clunky and inane, lurching from one painfully set-up punchline to the next.

Most frustrating is that the film never finds a balance between the madcap spoof, awkward action and mystery thriller. Throwaway zingers are hilarious (such as Richard asking at an audition if he can try the scene with a brogue), but they're spread too thin to create Airplane-style nuttiness. Jabs at the television industry are dead-on, but never taken to their logical extreme. And some running gags are pushed too far (like Mindhorn's trademark outfit). It's good for a giggle, but it should have been a lot more than that.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 24.Jan.17

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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall