15 – 89mins – 2017
YOU CAN’T HANDCUFF THE WIND
“It’s truth time!”
In the late 80s, Richard Thorncroft (Julian Aaaaaaaah! Barratt) had the world at his brogue-wearing feet. As the star of crime-fighting action/adventure series Mindhorn, he had money, fame and the show’s hottest “totty,” Patricia Deville (Essie Davis), on his arm. But a quarter of a century on the actor has fallen on hard times. While his co-star, Peter Eastman (Steve Alan Partridge Coogan) has flourished in his own hit spin-off, Mindhorn is little more than a nostalgic memory, with a balding, out-of-shape Thorncroft reduced to embarrassing himself in scarce auditions and hocking cheap tat in adverts. Hollywood never called.
“Does nobody know who I am anymore?!”
When escaped murder suspect Paul “The Kestrel” Melly (Russell Tovey) – 32-years old with the mental age of 9 – refuses to speak with anyone on the Isle of Man police force except the fictional Detective Mindhorn, the island’s local constabulary have no option but to call on Thorncroft to return to his most famous role one more time, in the hope of capturing Melly before anyone else dies.
Initially reluctant (“In my career I go ever-forwards, like a shark,”), Thorncroft soon changes his mind, believing the publicity from a heroic deed will amplify his profile and make him a bookable star once more – and maybe snag him a reunion with his ex, Deville. But a lot has changed in 25 years and Thorncroft fails to keep up with the changes that have occurred to his former lover, the show’s stuntman (Simon Farnaby), and his former manager (Richard McCabe). But when a piece of evidence turns the “Kestrel” case on its head, Thorncroft seizes the opportunity to out the real villains and (finally) make things right.
“It’s time for the apocalypse of justice!”
As well as being a BBC Films and Babycow Productions project, Mindhorn also shares a star (Coogan) and the plot from 2013’s Alan Partridge movie, Alpha Papa (which I reviewed HERE). Both stories concern washed-up former-celebrities deluded about their star-quality who find themselves of prime importance in a serious police investigation, and decide to use the dangerous scenario to their own advantage. Both also star a smattering of familiar British comedy faces and are equally hilarious in their own right.
“Thank God for Thromb-sox.”
Conceived and written by co-stars Barratt and Farnaby (who long ago shared the screen in an episode of surrealist sitcom The Mighty Boosh, playing alternative versions of the same character), Mindhorn is a cracking hoot of a time. Lampooning cheesy 80s cult classics such as Knight Rider and The Six Million Dollar Man, as well taking a satirical dig at actors who believe their own hype and being a jolly good crime/detective romp in its own right (think Hot Fuzz), Mindhorn juggles a number of balls but keeps them all in the air.
Ultimately, the film lives and dies by its characterisation, and it successfully forges some magnificently monstrous and exaggerated (anti-)heroes. From alcoholic deadbeat Geoffrey Moncrieff (“Flange ahoy, Ritchie!”) to smug and punchable rivals Clive and Eastman, and even arrogant “fuckin’ clown” Thorncroft himself, Barratt and Farnaby’s script is electrifying, jam-packed full of witty I-can’t-believe-he-just-said-that comedy gold which sells the squirm-worthy scenario with aplomb.
CR@B’s Claw Score: