Film Review: Mindhorn

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 5 May 2017

Richard Thorncroft, the character at the centre of Mindhorn, is clearly intended to join a very specific group of British comedy antiheroes. Along with the likes of Alan Partridge and David Brent, Thorncroft is a pitiable dinosaur trapped in a world in which he clings to the belief that he is a charismatic, well-liked person; what he lacks in talent he makes up for in ego.

In Sean Foley’s very British comedy, Thorncroft (Julian Barratt) is a washed-up actor who had short-lived success many moons ago with a now-cancelled TV show called Mindhorn, in which he played a detective with a bionic eye that could ‘see the truth’. Many of his co-stars went on to bigger and better things: Patricia Deville (Essie Davis), love interest of both Mindhorn and Thorncroft, is now a news presenter living with Thorncroft’s old stunt double (Simon Farnaby), and Peter Eastman (Steve Coogan), whose role in Mindhorn was miniscule, somehow had a hit spinoff series and became fabulously wealthy.

What makes Mindhorn a success in spite of its flaws is Barratt’s performance

The presence of Coogan, whose Alan Partridge is such a classic British comedy creation, reinforces the similarities between the two characters – even the plot, which sees Thorncroft asked to reprise his defining role when a killer emerges who will only speak to ‘Mindhorn’ – resembles some elements of Alpha Papa, the first big screen outing for Coogan’s character. But despite the obvious inspirations, Thorncroft manages to stand alone as a compelling comic force. Much of his success is down to Barratt’s winning performance and the high points of the script written by Barratt and co-star Farnaby.

But while there are certainly laugh-out-loud high points (including a running gag late on about Thorncroft’s physical incarceration in the Mindhorn costume), there are some elements that feel underdeveloped or misjudged. Some supporting characters, such as Thorncroft’s stunt double and manager, and his eventual sidekick, don’t bring much to the table in terms of memorable moments; while potentially amusing subplots, such as the runaway success of Coogan’s character, aren’t really played strongly enough. There’s also a fairly uninteresting plot holding all of this together, which, while it might not have been much of an issue in a more consistently funny film, means the story sections feel a little dull when they happen.

What makes Mindhorn a success in spite of its flaws is Barratt’s performance, a smattering of very good jokes, and the scant 90-minute runtime, which allows the material enough room to breathe but ties thing up b efore it runs out of steam. Those 90 minutes may be inconsistent, but there are enough comic high points, mixed in with just enough pathos, to make Mindhorn worth seeking out.

3/5

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