Director: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Gabourey Sidibe, Annabelle Wallis, Ian McShane, Penélope Cruz
Run Time: 83 mins
Carl Allen “Nobby” Butcher, is the latest creation of comedy genius Sacha Baron Cohen in ‘Grimsby’ (otherwise known as ‘The Brothers Grimsby’ in America), the man behind Ali G, Borat, Brüno and General Aladeen. This time he plays a football hooligan with multiple kids living in the seaside town of Grimsby who tracks down his brother who is a spy for MI5. The actual town of Grimsby is very negatively portrayed in the film and has caused controversy. The film is directed by Louis Leterrier who has a very patchy track record with his films – he has directed the first two instalments of ‘The Transporter’ series which was poor and then ‘The Incredible Hulk’, ‘Clash of the Titans’ and ‘Now You See Me’ all of which were well-intentioned but very flawed. So to have Leterrier directing someone as talented as Sacha Baron Cohen in a comedy which he has never tackled before causes very mixed feelings.
‘Grimsby’ is one of the best comedies of the decade – it is consistently hilarious (although quite vulgar in parts) and the cast are wonderful, in particular the two leads, Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong, who displays a real panache for comedic roles. Louis Leterrier has really developed as a director and seems to have a flair for comedy. However, the only criticism is that Leterrier still cannot quite grasp how to direct an action scene and this is a recurring theme in all of his films. It’s a real shame how this film has been almost completely misunderstood and has garnered rather mixed reviews.
‘Grimsby’ boasts a strong cast, particularly with the duo of Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong who really elevate the film. One would expect Sacha Baron Cohen to pull off comedic roles as this is what he is most famous for and ‘Nobby’ is another ingenious creation to add to his repertoire but equally as impressive is Mark Strong who is fantastic here. He displayed a comedic side in last years, ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ which he was excellent in too and he emulates his success here. The rest of the cast are rounded out by talents such as Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Gabourey Sidibe, Annabelle Wallis, Ian McShane and Penélope Cruz who are all sound but this film really does belong to the main duo.
The film is consistently funny from beginning to end which is very rare for a comedy film which generally tend to lose steam at some point. ‘Grimsby’ is one of those rare films that bucks this trend and one has to admire it in this respect. The ‘British’ humour works best and the film can be quite vulgar at times but what ruined Baron Cohen’s previous works was the fact that the humour overstepped the mark and was consistently crude. A lot of the success here is down to the script penned by Baron Cohen and Phil Johnston who both seem to have a love of this story and the script feels very refined and polished with humour constantly thrown into the mix.
‘Grimsby’ has also got a great heart to it as well which adds another dimension to this film and really elevates its quality. Not many comedies can balance comedy and emotion and this manages to handle this very assuredly. There are many flashback sequences that delve into the disturbed childhood of the main characters that are wonderful to watch on-screen as it really develops the characters and allows the audience to really feel for them.
However, one of the only criticisms that I have of ‘Grimsby’ is Leterrier’s ability to craft action sequences. Leterrier resorts to using ‘shaky-cam’ which make some of the action incomprehensible to interpret on-screen rather than using slightly longer shots to detail the action. This is also true in his other films and with all the character development and humour, this does unfortunately let it down a little bit. Part of this is down to cinematographer, Oliver Wood who takes a mis-step here as he is capable of greatness as he shot ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ which had enthralling action sequences.
Overall, ‘Grimsby’ is an excellent film that is consistently funny and is one of the very best comedies of the decade so far. Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong are a perfect match and both manage to pull off their roles extremely well and the film’s heart really manages to elevate its status. It is, in my opinion, Sacha Baron Cohen’s best work but the reviews for this film have been very mixed which I find quite hard to understand. It would seem that audiences tend to prefer the more crude humour that Baron Cohen is capable of. That said, the entire audience in my screening were all laughing from start to finish which is testament to the quality of the film. An excellent effort from all involved.