Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Brothers Grimsby

THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY (Louis Leterrier, 2015)

Although it’s been twenty-eight years since he was separated from his little brother, Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen) continues to hold out hope that they will be reunited. In THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY Nobby is tipped off that Sebastian (Mark Strong) will be at a London charity event, but he’s unaware that his sibling will be in attendance as an MI6 agent intent on taking out an assassin. Nobby’s bumbling greeting of his long-lost brother leads to Sebastian accidentally shooting one of the very people he was supposed to be protecting.

With the nation’s security service in hot pursuit of him, Sebastian reluctantly agrees to let his eager brother hide him at the crowded flat he lives in with his wife Dawn (Rebel Wilson) and nearly a dozen kids. Sebastian’s return to their working class English hometown of Grimsby, sister city to Chernobyl, is short-lived as professional killers follow him there. Before long he and Nobby are traveling to South Africa and elsewhere around the globe to foil an evil mastermind’s plot to terrorize the planet.

Like THE DICTATOR, THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY features Baron Cohen’s antics in a scripted scenario instead of the mix of quasi-documentary and fiction in BORAT and BRUNO. He’s credited as one of three screenwriters on THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY, and it’s the funniest thing he’s made since BORAT, although, as with his other work, your appreciation depends on how high your tolerance is for the outrageous and offensive. Like the hardscrabble buffoons that Nobby lives among, this is a comedy of exceptionally low taste. For instance, one of the most memorable scenes features the brothers hiding in an elephant’s vagina while their host is visited by a line of amorous pachyderms. The extended bit is as filthy and uproarious as one might imagine.

As base and scatological as THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY is, the vulgarity seems cheeky and cheerful in large part to Baron Cohen’s amiable doofus. Perpetually clad in an England soccer jersey and resembling the lead singer of Oasis, Nobby is a genial family man who is willing to endure all sorts of indignities for the sake of being with his brother again. This sweetness is critical in striking a balance with all of the disgusting stuff that, while nasty, doesn’t come across as mean. Some may find that a couple jokes cross the line into racial insensitivity, but for a film that takes big risks for laughs, most don’t seem to come from a cruel place.

Director Louis Leterrier, possibly best known for THE TRANSPORTER and its first sequel, brings credibility to THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY’s action scenes. During the opening credits the first-person POV chase with Sebastian tailing a suspect serves as a good example of the breakneck excitement in such sequences and a funny riff on spy movie setpieces. The action matters in THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY, but ultimately the film strives, like the James Bond and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE series, to find its purpose in showing the audience something it can’t believe it’s seeing. In this case that means howling at grotesquely swollen anatomy and an unconventional method for containing the threat of weaponized rockets.

Grade: B

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