Review of "Grimsby (DVD)"

published 05/12/2016 | afy9mab
Member since : 11/07/2000
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All of my DVD reviews are film only, so do not include pricing information. If you have time, please read and rate my Batman V Superman review.
Not for me
Pro Mark Strong is a consummate professional.
Cons It's mean-spirited, childish, prejudiced and wastes its cast on terrible roles.
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"Puts the "Grim" in Grimsby"


Nobby is a dim-witted football hooligan, who has spent the last twenty-eight years looking for his little brother Sebastian, after being separated as kids. Unbeknownst to him, Sebastian is now MI6’s deadliest assassin, who has just uncovered plans for an imminent global terrorist attack. But when trying to reunite with his sibling, Nobby blows his cover and his mission. On the run and wrongfully accused, Sebastian realises that in order to save the world, he’s going to need the help of his idiotic brother.

“The Incredible Hulk” director Louis Leterrier returns with this ill-advised stab at an action comedy, that is neither as funny nor as thrilling as it thinks it is. The film really only comes alive during the action sequences (perhaps unsurprisingly, considering Leterrier’s involvement in the “Transporter” franchise). His opening foray plays out like a first-person shooter computer game, that shows a flair for extremely silly, hyperkinetic action, which favours pace over sense. There’s a moment where the hero kicks a man down a flight of stairs before shooting him in mid-air. It’s the kind of flourish that Michael Bay has been chasing for his entire career. Sadly, these flashes of invention are few and far between. The visual style of the production is generally flat and uninspired.

I think the film’s greatest problem is that the director is utterly beholden to his star (although I suppose it’s hard not to be, as he is also a co-writer and producer). Leterrier allows Baron Cohen to set the style, tone and pace of the movie, which proves to be an almighty mistake. Unfortunately, the actor appears to have the sense of humour of a particularly mean-spirited and emotionally stunted twelve-year-old. He’s obsessed with what goes into and comes out of bottoms. His character’s attraction to plus-sized women is presented as freakish and weird, while infecting Daniel Radcliffe with AIDS is apparently the height of hilarity. But the most mean-spirited of all the gags are saved for the inhabitants of Grimsby. They are presented as a bunch of overweight, foul-mouthed, ill-educated, drunken, workshy benefit cheats. Cohen may be aiming for social satire, but belly-flops into prejudice. Consequently, it comes across as a man from a very privileged background laughing at poor people. It doesn’t even appear that he has done his homework on where Grimsby actually is. Going by the (in some cases extremely dodgy) accents and preponderance of northern actors, he seems to think it’s a suburb of Manchester (when it is in fact on the Lincolnshire coast), adding to the “grim up north” cliché. He even goes so far as to talk down to his audience by explaining the jokes. His freewheeling improvisations are allowed to run on unchecked, long after any iota of humour has been squeezed from them. It is as though the director simply doesn’t have the bottle to tell him to stop.

The reliance on relentlessly crude humour is wearing to watch and makes the movie monotonous. Sight gags and slapstick fail to land because Leterrier has no idea how to time them. He pre-empts jokes with lingering looks at phallic objects that let you know exactly what’s coming. The insistence on gross-out humour comes at the expense of building plot or developing characters into three-dimensional human beings you can actually care about. The sentimental flashbacks to Nobby and Sebastian’s shared childhood cause some jarring shifts of tone and repeatedly bring the flimsy plot to a shuddering halt. The cast is composed mainly of talented comic performers, but none of them get the chance to shine because Sacha Baron Cohen is constantly showboating. Although the film is only eighty-three minutes long, to me it felt as though it dragged on forever.

The screenplay by Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston and Peter Baynham flirts with being a spy spoof, a character comedy, a buddy movie, a gross-out comedy and a social satire, but never settles on a single genre. As a result, it’s just an unholy mess. It plays out more like a series of poorly thought out sketches rather than a coherent story. Most of the spy stuff involves Nobby taking his brother’s place on missions and screwing everything up. But in reality, this is just a backdrop for a series of increasingly unfunny, unoriginal and predictable jokes. The flimsy plot is occasionally abandoned in favour of some ill-advised sibling bonding, which consists of sucking poison out of a scrotum and being violated by a bull elephant while hiding in the vagina of a female. The writers are desperate to be seen as edgy, but everything is delivered in such a graceless way that it all comes across as tasteless. Jokes about rape, paedophilia and AIDS all rear their ugly heads, booted into the story seemingly at random. Meanwhile, a classist plot to kill the poor is introduced too late and feels like a lame attempt to retrofit meaning onto the chav clichés and general stupidity.

The characterisation is based on coarse stereotypes. Nobby conforms to every negative preconception about working class men. He is a loud, stupid, obnoxious, workshy football hooligan, who sponges off the state with his horde of ill-bred children and spends all of his free time down the pub. We’re supposed to like him because he loves his kids and is loyal to his friends and family – and we might if they weren’t clichés. Sebastian Graves is a suave, deadly, super-skilled secret agent in the mould of James Bond. Essentially, he’s there to play straight-man to Nobby’s idiot and act as a stooge for a great deal of slapstick. Nobby’s wife/girlfriend Dawn (it’s never really explained) seems to exist solely to be the butt of jokes about her size. The other members of MI6 get to do little other than make phone calls and stare at screens. The baddies consist of a few faceless thugs and a big boss, whose motivations are never satisfactorily explained. The other inhabitants of Grimsby and Nobby’s kids are nothing more than chav stereotypes. The dialogue is rife with sexual references, profanity and over-explained jokes.

I am not a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays Nobby. He’s a selfish performer, whose sole aim is to make himself the centre of attention in any given scene. He’s constantly stealing focus from the other actors and doesn’t know when to shut up. His generic northern accent is terrible, too. I’ll say this for Mark Strong as Sebastian – he seems game for anything. He’ll go along with any scenario, regardless of how embarrassing it may be. He’s also a consummate professional, never dropping his character and simply reacting to whatever is thrown at him, while keeping a straight face. I’ve no idea why Penelope Cruz signed on to play philanthropist Rhonda George. There’s nothing to the role and it’s a waste of her talents. The same is true of Rebel Wilson’s turn as Dawn. She isn’t given any funny lines or anything much to do. Baron Cohen’s wife Isla Fisher is a talented comic performer in her own right, but you wouldn’t know it from the thankless role of glorified secretary Jodie Figgis. And your guess is as good as mine about why Oscar-nominee Gabourey Sidibe agreed to appear as Banu the cleaner.

The original music by David Buckley and Erran Baron Cohen features some pretty generic arrangements of sad strings, harps and piano for the brothers’ childhood and a smattering of triumphal brass and sweeping strings for Sebastian’s missions. Occasionally there are some tense motifs featuring brass, strings and piano. It isn’t terrible, but neither is it very memorable. The other soundtrack choices include tracks like Blur’s “Parklife”, Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping”, “Bump ‘n’ Grind” by R Kelly and “Cigarettes and Alcohol” by Oasis, which all contribute to the idea that Sacha Baron Cohen’s version of Grimsby is stuck in the 1990s. More recent tracks like “Brother’s Blood” by Ed Sheeran and “All I Want” by Kodaline are a wee bit on-the-nose. But altogether, the soundtrack is by far the least offensive aspect of the production.

I absolutely loathed “Grimsby”. I thought the director was being led by his star, instead of putting his own stamp on the movie. The same was true of the writing, which was nothing more than an extremely loose framework for a series of self-indulgent, largely improvised skits, based on a poorly conceived character. The performances were hampered by Baron Cohen’s constant (and utterly needless) scene-stealing. To me, it felt more like the Sacha Baron Cohen show than an actual movie. I think it only underlines how much he struggles when he has to create a narrative, instead of relying on the real-life reactions of people caught up in his character comedy. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just more evidence that his style of mean-spirited comedy went stale at least three films ago. I’m sure if you’re already a fan, you’ll love it, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.

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Product Information : Grimsby (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

Actor(s): Sacha Baron Cohen, Rebel Wilson, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Penelope Cruz

Director(s): Louis Leterrier

Classification: 18 years and over

DVD Region: DVD

Production Year: 2016

Main Language: English

EAN: 5035822405738

Video Category: Feature Film


Listed on Ciao since: 24/10/2016