Mindhorn (4 stars)


GFF 2017: Julian Barratt co-writes and stars in this terrifically funny send-up of 80s detective shows

Co-creator of The Mighty Boosh Julian Barratt steps into the role of washed-up thespian Richard Thorncroft and the result is an endearingly silly comedy that pokes fun at dated detective shows like Bergerac. The film's title refers to the 1980s British TV series that made Thorncroft famous, in which he played a moustachioed MI5 operative whose eye was replaced with an optical lie detector, meaning he could literally 'see the truth'; after the operation the character took to the Isle of Man to solve crime.

The film is set in the modern-day as a serial killer stalks the island. An anonymous phone call from a deluded fan who believes Thorncroft is actually Mindhorn leads the actor back to his old stomping ground. Rather than try to solve the case, he sets out to prove his worth to the old cast members and his ex-wife Patricia Deville (The Babadook's Essie Davis – sadly underused, as are most of the talented actresses who appear).

There's so much to love about this superbly daft creation, especially the way Barratt sells his character's arrogance and desperation with a fully committed performance. It's directed by debut helmer Sean Foley, with Barratt co-authoring the screenplay with Simon Farnaby who turns up as Thorncroft's old stunt-man Clive, sporting a curly blonde wig and speaking in a Dutch accent.

The attention to detail is perfect: from the fact that Thorncroft's most recent advertising deal has been stolen by John Nettles, to his botched attempt at a musical career with a song titled 'You Can't Handcuff the Wind' that's accompanied by a cheesy music video. Fans of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace and Alan Partridge will particularly appreciate the brand of humour on display and the fine array of ridiculous characters who pop up to remind Thorncroft of his failures.

Screening on Mon 20 and Tue 21 Feb as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2017. General release from Fri 5 May.


  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • UK
  • 1h 29min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Sean Foley
  • Written by: Julian Barratt, Simon Farnaby
  • Cast: Essie Davis, Julian Barratt, Richard McCabe, Alex Wyndham, Alannah Olivia
  • UK release: 5 February 2017

Washed-up actor Richard Thorncroft (Barratt) was the star of an 80s British TV series in which he was an MI5 agent with an optical lie detector who could ‘see the truth’; in the present day, a serial killer case draws him in. Endearingly silly comedy with a fully committed performance from Barratt; fans of Partridge and…