Mindhorn – Film Review by Bridget Deevy
Director: Sean Foley
Writers: Julian Barratt, Simon Farnaby
Stars: Essie Davis, Andrea Riseborough, Kenneth Branagh
From the world of Partridge, Hot Fuzz and The Mighty Boosh, Mindhorn brings us a new character in the roll call of epic self-delusion. Written by Boosh alumni, Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby, (who also star), and directed by Sean Foley, Mindhorn is a film that knows what it is and revels in it.
Barratt plays Richard Thorncroft, a has-been, middle aged, British actor of one time ‘Mindhorn’ TV show fame. In an opening sequence that recreates the hey-day of Mindhorn and with a set up reminiscent of classic shows such as The A-Team and The Bionic Woman, we learn that Thorncroft played Detective Mindhorn, an ex-army man who after being injured in action, is fitted with a mechanical eye that can literally “see the truth”. Cue synthy ‘80s theme tune, puntastic one-liners and a healthy dose of ‘80s era misogyny, primarily aimed at his on and off screen love interest Patricia Deville (Essie Davis).
Thorncroft’s success in the role of Mindhorn, set on the Isle of Man, was short-lived however, with the usual excesses of fame and hubris leading him to a disastrous name-calling, bridge-burning interview on a TV chat show before leaving for America, to hit the big leagues. Fast-forward to today and Thorncroft is scraping an existence doing ads for orthopedic socks. He never made it in Hollywood, his career stalled and his hair fell out. Luckily for him, there is a crazed killer on the Isle of Man, who believing that Mindhorn is a real person, is demanding that he communicate only with him. In a move that paints the entertainment industry in a truly cynical light, Thorncroft sees this new ‘opportunity’ as a chance at career redemption.
Back on the Isle of Man, Thorncroft is not a popular figure. The Manx don’t forget and certainly not being slagged off on national TV, his ex-lover Patricia is now married to his stunt double Clive, (Simon Farnaby) and his side-kick in the show Windjammer, (Steve Coogan), has reached local celeb status with an unlikely, yet hugely successful spin off series, in spite of Thorncroft’s public declarations that he had no talent. Oh and there’s a crazed killer roaming the island.
The crazed killer in question is a little derivative of a certain episode of Alan Patridge’s TV show where Alan accidentally ends up at his No. 1 fan’s house, (just as well Steve Coogan is on board as an executive producer). In fact, the film overall owes a lot to the world of Partridge and less so to Boosh. As with Partridge, real people are name checked, (and there are some great cameos), while the world of D-list celeb hell is exposed to full cringe-worthy effect.
Mindhorn then offers little in the way of surprises but is a boisterous pup of a film nonetheless, mainly due to Julian Barrat’s ebullient performance. His Thorncroft is hilariously conceited, self involved and utterly deluded, but there is also a vulnerability that he brings to the character that you can’t help but warm to. Shades of pathos linger only long enough to register before we are pulled back to surreal or slapstick comedy, but they add dimension to what might otherwise have been a one-note buffoon. If films from this particular stable of British comedy is your thing, you won’t be disappointed.