Mindhorn (15) | Close-Up Film Review
Dir. Sean Foley, 2016, UK, 89 mins
Cast: Julian Barratt, Essie Davis, Andrea Riseborough
Review by Carol Allen
Co-writers Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby, who worked together as actors on the television hit comedy series “The Mighty Boosh” have been beavering away for several years on the script for this and the result is rather good fun.
Barratt also stars as washed up actor Richard Thorncroft, who had his place in the sunshine of fame back in the eighties, playing the title role in a television series called “Mindhorn”. The character was a detective with a robotic eye, which allowed him to tell if anyone was telling the truth or not. Now Thorncroft can’t even get a job on a television commercial. But Maverick returns to save his bacon, when his agent (Harriet Walter) gets a call from the police on the Isle of Man, where the series had been set. They have a self proclaimed killer, who threatens to kill again unless he can talk face to face with Detective Mindhorn himself. He’s a delusional nutter you see, who thinks Mindhorn is a real person. So Thorncroft dons eye patch, wig and costume to play his role once again.
There’s some neat satire on 80s telly cops such as “Bergerac” and “The Professionals”, some rip roaring farce, character comedy and at times a rather wistful sense of nostalgia. Particularly enjoyable are the opening scenes, which sharply but also sympathetically take the mickey out of the acting profession and actors’ vanities and insecurities, which are a bit reminiscent of Matt Berry’s “Toast of London” television series. These scenes embrace a couple of neat cameos from Simon Callow, sending up his own success and Kenneth Branagh, wincing in agony as Thorncroft delivers an excruciating audition. There are a lot of old mates in the cast, including Steve Coogan, another Boosh veteran, here playing a once supporting actor from “Mindhorn”, who is now himself a TV star with his own series and who is out for revenge for the way Thorncroft once insulted him on a chat show.
Among the other actors playing foil to Thorncroft’s tomfoolery are Andrea Riseborough as the detective. despairing over her maverick charge; Russell Tovey as the supposed killer, who likes to be known as The Kestrel but couldn’t actually kill a fly and Australian Essie Davis (The Babadook), as Patricia, Thorncroft’s former girlfriend and co-star in the series, for whom he still carries a torch. She plays it dead straight and actually gives Barrett some rather touching moments. Farnaby has also written a nice little part for himself as Patricia’s current partner, a former stuntman with a thick South African accent, who likes parading around in the nude.
The film gets a bit diffuse and loses pace at times, but then most comedies do, and the climax is very, very silly. The actors, old mates and new, all seem to having a good laugh together but they make the audience laugh too, so no worries there.