MINDHORN (UK/15A/89mins)
Directed by Sean Foley. Starring Julian Barratt, Simon Farnaby, Andrea Riseborough, Russell Tovey, Essie Davis
THE PLOT: Actor Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt) was at the top of his game in the 1980s; star of the hit TV show Mindhorn – on which he played a secret agent with a bionic eye that could always see the truth – Thorncroft was sure that he was one step away from the big time. In 2016, however, things are not so rosy for Thorncroft; washed up and making TV ads for orthopaedic socks, Thorncroft is still suffers from delusions of grandeur. When a killer on the Isle of Man will only speak to Mindhorn, however, Richard Thorncroft is drafted in, and dusts off his most famous character one more time.
THE VERDICT: Written by Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby, and starring the former ‘Mighty Boosh’ star Barratt as a washed up man who never got the break he thought he deserved, ‘Mindhorn’ is farcical, over the top, absurd and perhaps most importantly, incredibly funny.
Julian Barratt takes to the indulgent, delusional and completely un-self aware character of Richard Thorncroft like a duck to water, and runs with the joke throughout the film. There are moments of humility for the character, but on the whole, Thorncroft is at his best when he believes this is his big comeback. Simon Farnaby takes on the role of Clive, Richard’s former stunt double and manages to convey comedy convincingly through a Dutch accent that seems to be here for no reason at all. Andrea Roseborough plays Isle Of Man cop DC Baines, Essie Davis plays Richard’s former flame Pat, and the rest of the cast features Steve Coogan, Simon Callow, Kenneth Brannagh, Russell Tovey and Richard McCabe.
Barratt and Farnaby’s screenplay feels rather like it was inspired by Toast of London – which stars former Mighty Boosh alum Matt Berry – and there are definitely times when Richard Thorncroft’s delusions of grandeur mirror that of Barratt’s Mighty Boosh character Howard Moon’s similar beliefs, but there is a charm and wit to ‘Mindhorn’ that makes it stand out on its own. The jokes come thick and fast, with many of them resting on Barratt’s capable shoulders, but it is good fun to see Brannagh and Callow take the mick out of their public personas, and to have Steve Coogan play a character whose TV show was not cancelled, for once.
First time feature director Sean Foley keeps the pacing and the timing of ‘Mindhorn’ going, and plays up the kitsch nostalgia factor with mentions of Terry Wogan, and plenty of rather naff ‘Mindhorn’ merchandise thrown in for good measure. ‘Mindhorn’ is, at its heart, a caper, and there is plenty of fun to be had as the characters wrestle their way to the truth across the most famous landmarks of the Isle of Man.
In all, ‘Mindhorn’ is a film that definitely follows in the footsteps of ‘The Mighty Boosh’, ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’, ‘Toast of London’ and’ I’m Alan Partridge’, but it manages to become it’s own film through Barratt’s clever comedy and some great pacing. Fans of quirky British humour rejoice! It is alive and well, and living on the Isle of Man!
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Every now and then there’s a film that is destined to become a cult classic. Mindhorn could very well be that film, as it has its tongue very much planted in its cheek. It pokes fun at its title character and the actor behind him. But is it as good or as smart as it thinks it is?

    Richard (Julian Barratt) is a washed-up, has-been, aging actor whose glory days are definitely behind him. Those glory days were 25 years ago, when he was the star of a cheesy, Isle of Man-set, crime/action TV show called Mindhorn. In it, he played a cybernetically enhanced cop with an eye that could literally see the truth. The years since have not been so kind. Richard has gotten plumper and he’s lost whatever acting magic he used to have, instead reduced to doing commercials for silly products. However, DC Baines (Andrea Riseborough) calls him seeking his help. A serial killer known as The Kestrel (Russell Tovey) has insisted that he’ll only speak with the fictional Mindhorn. So, Richard heads back to the Isle Of Man to get in touch with his most famous character, catch the killer, clash with old rival Peter (Steve Coogan) and re-kindle a romance with old flame Patricia (Essie Davis)…

    Mindhorn is the brainchild of writer Simon Farnaby (he also plays Richard’s love rival Clive) and the script was co-written by Barratt. You can see the origin of this particular species early on, as we watch faux footage of Mindhorn, a none-more-1980s cop show which had to have some sort of gimmick to it. The attention to detail here is spot-on, getting the excess of the era right along with exagerrated acting and car bonnet rolls by our hero. As the story settles though, we find that Richard will have to slip back into his ‘old friend’, not an easy task it seems. More of a TV actor, Barratt does a good job here of selling how pathetic Richard is now – the audition scene with one Kenneth Branagh is a good chuckle. Barratt also injects some pathos into his character, with a definite sense that lightning doesn’t strike twice.

    Debut director Sean Foley makes good use of his Isle Of Man locations. Too often used as a location for other countries (e.g. Ireland for Waking Ned), the island gets to play itself for a change. It’s a refreshing change of scenery. Foley also gets his cast into the spirit of the piece, delivering archly heightened performances. They’re pitched more to TV than film, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It lends the film a proper cheesiness as befits the daffy tone, though the acting varies from actor to actor (Farnaby is supremely irritating, Riseborough takes a surprise break from intense roles for an off-kilter cop).

    The plot is a bit of a mess at times, bigging up supposedly minor characters and forgetting about seemingly important ones later on. Some scenes don’t add anything to Richard’s character arc either and are just random and odd. However, Foley and Barratt manage to hold it all together without it falling apart. Mindhorn isn’t as good or as smart as it thinks it is, but it’s still quite funny, entertaining and oddly endearing. ***

  • Clive Bower

    I’m not sure about this film, it has been getting great reviews but for me it did not rock my world I am sorry to say. The story is funny but it just lacked something i cannot put my finger on . Shall rewatch when it comes out on DVD later in the year. Can’t recommend it for a trip to the cinema though

    • emerb

      Clive, I totally agree with you!

  • emerb

    “Mindhorn” is quirky, offbeat and exceptionally silly – it isn’t a comedy for everybody, I’ll start with saying that it didn’t appeal to me all that much. Director Sean Foley’s cinematic debut features “Mighty Boosh” star Julian Barratt as a deluded, failed actor who gets an unlikely chance to relive his glory days but ends up involved in some violent goings-on on the Isle of Man. Co-written by
    Barratt and Simon Farnaby, it’s a light and playful British character comedy which asks questions about what it means to trade on age-old fame but for me, the whole premise was too farcical and ridiculous to really work. It’s worth noting that the film also boasts Ridley Scott and Steve Coogan among its executive producers with Coogan also playing a supporting role, while Kenneth Branagh and Simon Callow, make brief cameos as themselves.

    It’s 1989 on the Isle Of Man and “Mindhorn” introduces us to Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt), a successful but arrogant actor who stars in a hit tv show, playing a detective with a bionic eyepatch that can supposedly “see the truth”. He dreams to launch a Hollywood career and petulantly quits the show. Fast forward 25 years and now, having failed to become a success, he’s a paunchy, bald, wig-wearing, middle-aged loser living in poverty in a London bedsit. However, it turns out that he may actually be in demand. After a murder on the Isle Of Man, a mentally unbalanced superfan / villain called the Kestrel (Russel Tovey) is suspected of murder and contacts police officer DC Baines (Andrea Riseborough) and insists he’ll only talk with the great detective Mindhorn himself.
    Thorncroft sees this as a glorious PR opportunity and a chance to help boost his profile with some much-needed publicity and perhaps also rekindle his relationship with his glamorous ex-girlfriend and “Mindhorn” co-star Patricia Deville (Essie Davis), who is now employed as a local TV journalist and happily married to Thorncroft’s former stunt double Clive Parnevik (Simon Farnaby). Inevitably, all does not go according to plan, the case blows up and Richard has to go on the run, on the way encountering a former “Mindhorn” supporting actor (Steve Coogan) who has built a hugely successful business empire on the back of his own long-running spinoff series. There are other subplots involving a corrupt Isle Of Man mayor (Nicholas Farrell), various local cops and an incriminating videotape.

    I’m on the fence with this movie. Undoubtedly there are some good gags, it’s never less than good fun – genial, goofy and light. Kudos to Barratt for delivering a dedicated and deadpan comic performance, he’s so wildly daft and wacky that it’s hard not to root for him and he shares a strong comic chemistry with Farnaby.
    He certainly nails a number of funny lines but so many of the jokes become strained and fail to hit the mark. For example a sequence at the end which has Thorncroft sewn and glued into a life-sized ‘Mindhorn’ Action Man figure goes on beyond the point of its being funny. There are also a number of minor subplots which don’t go anywhere – such as the relationship with his daughter. Sadly the female characters are disappointingly underused in minor roles – Andrea Riseborough has very little to do and no good lines. I can see “Mindhorn” doing well here and in Britain but I feel that the jokey British humour will prove a tougher sell in international markets. On balance, I guess it delivers just about enough laughs to get by…..