One thing that you find works well about British comedy is absurdist caricatures. Through characters like Basil Fawlty and Alan Partridge, we’ve seen a goldmine of great comedy. Out of this trend came The Mighty Boosh, and now two of the key people responsible for that show, Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby, have taken their style of humour to the big screen with Mindhorn.The film follows Richard Thorncroft, who had success in the 1980s being the lead in a Knight Rider-esque TV series called Mindhorn, about a detective on the Isle of Man who had a bionic eye that could see the truth. However, in modern times, Thorncroft is a washed up actor whose most recent work was advertising orthopaedic socks. That changes though when a killer escapes prison on the Isle of Man and says he will only speak with Mindhorn. This results in the police calling in Thorncroft to reprise his role as Mindhorn to find the killer. What works most about the film is the character of Richard Thorncroft. Kind of like a cross between Alan Partridge and David Hasslehoff, Thorncroft is a brilliant comedic creation, being incredibly egotistical and arrogant, although there is a good heart in him. By focusing the film on how Thorncroft grows as a person, understanding what led to his decline and working to fix the issues, we get a strong central focus for the film. I’ll also say that the central mystery of the film is engaging, at least until the final third when it kind of falls apart. Aside from the character of Thorncroft though, what works best about the film is the humour. Through a great understanding of what made shows like Knight Rider endure, the clips we see of the Mindhorn series are brilliantly executed, especially a brilliantly terrible music video done by the Thorncroft character, You Can’t Handcuff the Wind.
The performances add to the comedic gold of the film. The main reason why the character of Thorncroft works so well is because of how well Julian Barrett merges with the character, making the egotistical, arrogant nature of the character work so well for comedy. Essie Davis gives a strong performance as Patricia DeVille, doing a good job at showing the sexism faced by actresses in the 80s and the intelligence of the character as a journalist. Andrea Riseborough gives a strong performance as DC Baines, Thorncroft’s liaison with the police, although to explain why would spoil the film. We also get strong comedic performances from Russell Tovey as the suspected killer Paul Melly, whilst also adding some pathos to the character later on, and from Simon Farnaby, who does a brilliant bad Dutch accent as Thorncroft’s old stunt double Clive, his deadpan delivery with the accent creating some great comedy moments. There are also strong performances in cameos from Steve Coogan as a former cast member of Mindhorn whose spin-off show had much greater success, along with Simon Callow and Kenneth Branagh playing themselves.
Overall, Mindhorn may not be a film that will change your life, but it is a solid comedy delivering laughs consistently, mainly due to a brilliant comedic creation with the character of Richard Thorncroft and a loving parody of shows like Knight Rider and The Six Million Dollar Man. If you’re a fan of those shows, alongside shows like I’m Alan Partridge, The Mighty Boosh or Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, you should have a lot of fun with Mindhorn. Sorry this isn’t as long a review, but going into more detail would ruin the jokes and for a comedy, I hate doing that in reviews.