Director: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Sasha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Penelope Cruz, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Ian McShane, Scott Adkins
Written by: Sasha Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston and Peter Baynham
Running Time: 83 mins
Release date: 26th February 2016
Another week, another gross-out comedy that pushes the boundaries of good taste while at the same time failing miserably to raise even a snigger let alone a smile. What makes Grimsby so disappointing is that this is from the man who gave us one of the classics in the gross-out comedy genre, Borat, a film that was both shocking and gut-bustingly funny. Grimsby is shocking but where were the laughs?
Nobby Butcher is a football loving lout from Grimsby who has been searching for his long-lost brother, Sebastian. Finally, after 28 years apart, he discovers him about to foil an assassination attempt, yet inadvertently being accused of murdering a major world leader. Sebastian is an expert spy and so must now go into hiding with his secret department wanting him dead. Relying on Nobby, the brothers must now escape death while trying to stop a world disaster.
Louis Leterrier, more known for directing action movies like the first two Transporter films, as well as spectacles like The Incredible Hulk and Now You See Me, knows exactly how to handle the more impressive set pieces, like the opening in which Sebastian is chasing after a bad guy. Seen from Sebastian’s point of view, the film has a level of adrenaline that excites, hoping it will be this thrilling throughout. Then it shifts gear and we are introduced to Nobby’s less glamorous lifestyle and the film goes into free fall, spiralling downwards into the pits of depravity.
This wouldn’t be so bad, if the film didn’t feel so disjointed. It fumbles around desperately for the jokes to stick, yet they never seem to do. It feels like the script writing teams sat down and tried to outgross each other, without actually finding a suitable way to make the gags coherent with the story. While we have this tale of a super spy on the run, we get jokes about poo and sucking nether regions and, more outrageously, one involving an elephant that pushes the bar to an all-time low.
Yet, unlike Dirty Grandpa, the depravity is never as nasty. In fact, hidden among the vomit-inducing gags lies a film with flashes of sweetness. There’s the story of long-lost brothers and the reason for their separation. Nobby even makes an impassioned speech about being poor. Yet these moments are few and far between and are constantly interrupted by even more pathetic, immature body fluid jokes. I wanted to see the action spy film. I wanted to see the heartbreak that brothers being pulled apart. I wanted to see a man standing up for the society he belongs to. I could have done without seeing two grown men inside an elephant.
Sasha Baron Cohen has built his career making us feel uncomfortable. Ali G asking plain idiotic questions to intelligent men and women is hilarious. Watching Borat naked wrestle is painfully funny. So you hope that his latest character, Nobby Butcher, can match those comic creations. He doesn’t even get close. Dressed like a thuggish Liam Gallagher and with an accent less accurate than Sean Connery’s Russian in The Hunt For Red October, you don’t believe in him for one moment. What made Borat so funny was that he was totally committed to that character, no matter how stereotypical he was. Nobby has none of that commitment. Instead he is uninteresting.
Like De Niro in Dirty Grandpa, you do spend most of the film questioning why Mark Strong agreed to star. This is one of Britain’s finest character actors, a man who can go from villain to hero in the blink of an eye and you’d believe him in both. Here he is expected to do things that most actor would run from, let alone walk away. Yet Strong puts himself through some unbelievably vile positions, none of which are funny. You do feel that he’s let himself down as well as all of us.
Grimsby just doesn’t do it. The jokes fall flat with bad timing and obvious delivery. you can see each gag coming at you from a mile off and then outstays its welcome every time. Leterrier should have stayed directing action movies while Baron Cohen should move on from this kind of tripe and Mark Strong is going to have to go a long way to remove the image of him covered in elephant…well, I’ll leave the rest to your imagination as I really don’t want to repeat what he is covered in here. Not terrible, just sad.