Bad taste spy spoof from writer-star Sacha Baron Cohen, with Mark Strong
Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong star in a spy spoof featuring gross-out jokes that push bad taste to its very limit. Directed by Louis Leterrier (Now You See Me) and co-written by Baron Cohen, it plays like a rowdy throwback to the 90s, wearing its allegiance to the lad culture of that era like a gaudy badge. If TFI Friday and Fat Les hooked up and gave birth to a foul-mouthed love child this would be it.
Nobby Butcher (Baron Cohen), a lager-fuelled, Liam Gallagher look-alike football hooligan has been awaiting the return of his brother Sebastian (Strong, at his most game) for 28 years, after he was adopted by a posh family in London. Finally alerted to Sebastian’s presence at a charity event hosted by philanthropist Rhonda George (a sorely underused Penélope Cruz), Nobby heads along only to find out his brother is in fact an intelligence service assassin, with the two eventually teaming up after Sebastian is forced to go into hiding. Isla Fisher (Baron Cohen’s wife) and Ian McShane also appear as MI6 operatives, but are strangely given little to do.
The occasional line really hits the mark, including a well-timed dig at FIFA, a joke at the expense of the Fast & Furious franchise and the names Nobby’s kids sport, such as Django Unchained and Skeletor, but much of the humour is so outdated and obvious it’s a challenge not to roll your eyes. The weak satirical thread positing the inhabitants of Grimsby as the kind of people cooked up by Tory scaremongering is at least relevant and remains on the right side of silly, but the gay panic humour gets tiresome quickly. Grimsby is knowingly nonsensical, while the action is fast-paced enough to distract you from the fact that this is essentially a base-level comedy featuring one of Baron Cohen’s most forgettable comedic characters.
General release from Wed 24 Feb.