There is something about Mindhorn that makes it quintessentially British. That sense if when you’re on a shit holiday, somewhere shit but have to pretend in front of your family that you’re having the time of your life in a place where the chief attraction is a rotting corpse in a reservoir.
The sense of making laughs out of fundamentally grim subject matter. American’s can’t quite grasp making comedy out of a situation that is shabby and rubbish or just brutal. Could you honestly conceive of an American made Greasy Strangler or The League of Gentleman?
Everybody has to look airbrushed, under 35 and presentable as a love interest for major studio executives.
Also, there isn’t anywhere Stateside quite like the Isle of Man.
Conceived by the brilliant comic minds of Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby, Mindhorn is in part a pastiche and homage to those cheesy sci-fi and action shows of the 70’s and 80’s. Shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man, Bergerac and The Professionals. The other part is more reminiscent of Alan Partridge. A fallen television star – attempting to subsist off his glory days – at its centre, Richard Thorncroft (Barratt) who once starred as Bruce P. Mindhorn, a private detective, who after being experimented on could literally see truth.
Fans of both men from their previous work (The Mighty Boosh, Yonderland, Nathan Barley) will instantly recognise and attach themselves to the offbeat brand of comedy. Odd quips delivered with the straightest of faces and close to the bone characters such as Thorncroft’s PR man, the decaying Geoffrey Moncrief (the superb Richard McCabe) or Russell Tovey’s suspected serial Killer Paul Melly a.k.a The Kestrel.
What Farnaby – who also stars as Mindhorn stuntman, Clive – and Barratt along with first time director Sean Foley deliver, is a nightmarish high farce. One that has the confidence to back up its sheer strangeness, chaos with its superb sending up of that very British naff, D-List celebrity culture. The increasingly, ruthless, consumerist culture. Which creates, indulges, consumes then destroys people who then will do anything to grasp that tenuous glory again. In this case, Thorncroft, uses a real-life murder to attempt to resurrect his career.
You could imagine the vaguely macabre Thorncroft – with his expanding gut and garish scarves (or Scarves of Jericho for the wrasslin’ fans) – showing up on “I’m A Celebrity…” “Celebrity Big Brother” or some reality show on Channel 4 where desperate faded grasp up to their last shred of fame in exchange for their dignity by trying to bring an Asian Water Monitor Lizard to orgasm.
There performances are stellar – with a cast also including Steve Coogan, Essie Davis and the superb Andrea Riseborough – the writing and directing is hilarious and we get a couple of fantastically funny cameos to boot with Kenneth Branagh and Simon Callow both starring as themselves.
Its bonkers, its brilliant, it’s Mindhorn!