The idea behind “The Brothers Grimsby” was to make an outrageous comedy with all the earmarks of an all-out action flick. “The Transporter” helmer Louis Leterrier knows his way around a car chase and can blow things up real good, but can Sacha Baron Cohen provide the laughs to go along with the action?
The “Borat” star plays Grimsby native “Nobby” Butcher, a lager-loving football hooligan from northern England, with a Liam Gallagher hairdo and eleven kids. He hasn’t seen his baby brother Sebastian (Mark Strong) in twenty-eight years and has no idea his long-lost sib is now a high-powered MI6 agent. When they do reunite Nobby inadvertently puts in motion a series of events—including almost killing a World Health Organization ambassador for peace in the Middle East—that see the estranged brothers team up to do battle with a deadly assassin, travel the world and hide inside an elephant (you read that right, that is NOT a typo) in an effort to save the world.
“Yesterday I was down at the pub having a regular day with my mates,” says Nobby. “Today I’m with my brother, running, swimming, jumping and doing all sorts of cardio.”
If “Borat” and “Bruno” made you laugh like a hyena on a nitrous oxide binge you’ll know what to expect from “The Brothers Grimsby.” The new film doesn’t have the same cutting edge innovation as Baron Cohen’s best-known work, but it still has plenty of edge. It’s the kind of movie that uses a blocked toilet as a plot point and finds delight in HIV jokes, registered sex offender gags and too many bodily fluid quips to count. It should be a bonanza for those who enjoy their humour on the gastrointestinal side.
Nobby is Baron Cohen’s least developed character yet, a comedy concoction who feels like he might not be that out of place in a particularly raunchy “Carry On” movie. He uses Nob’s idiot temperament to make some social comments—“I understand why you like guns so much,” Nobby says after shooting a gun for the first time. “They completely detaches you from the guilt of your actions.”—but the character has none of the danger and few of the interesting quirks that came along with his mockumentary creations.
Mark Strong waffles between his action man pose and wild slapstick and pulls off both but I’m afraid the image of him covered in elephant ejaculate will stay with me the next time I see him trying to play it straight in a dramatic role.
The guys are given plenty of screen time and some fun stuff to do, which cannot be said for the women in the cast. As Nobby’s wife the usually hilarious Rebel Wilson is wasted, reduced to a fat joke and Penélope Cruz’s character makes her recent turn in “Zolander 2” look like Lady Macbeth.
Like all the best spy movies “The Brothers Grimsby” has international locations like South Africa, Chile, Jakarta and some good action scenes, but like all Baron Cohen’s films it is outrageous lowest common denominator stuff. It may make you laugh, but those laughs come along with a certain amount of shame at finding some of this stuff amusing. At least at a scant eighty-five minutes it doesn’t overstay its welcome.