“…Clive Parnevik – a semi-naked man so laid-back Dutch, he’s visually virtually orange.”
The all too often ‘hiding to nothing’ that is stretching a simple comedy concept into a full-blown feature film continues unabated here with Sean Foley’s, Mindhorn.
Based upon Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby’s screenplay – both of whom have key roles in it – this is the story of Richard Thornton, a washed up has-been actor who briefly in the 1980’s had a taste of the high-life, portraying slick, on-screen, no-nonsense maverick Isle-of-Man detective, Mindhorn. A sort of naff Magnum P.I – light.
Resplendent in brown leather jacket, roll-neck sweater and grey brogues, our ‘action’ hero is also the proud wearer of a special eye patch through which his artificial eyeball can literally see the truth.
All faltering one-liners, thick head of hair and generous moustache, our bionic Bergerac (thank you Julian Barratt), goes about the task of solving the island’s assorted crimes and misdemeanours along with his glamorous sidekick and all-round ‘bit of totty,’ Patricia Deville (Essie Davis).
Fast forward twenty-five years and Richard Thornton, a now tubby, bald jobbing actor for corporate videos and adverts, receives a call out of the blue from the Isle of Man police. His presence is ‘urgently’ requested on the island to aid in solving an actual case of murder.
Delusional oddball ‘The Kestrel’ (Russell Tovey), is the chief suspect in the case. Refusing to give himself up to the police, he insists that he’ll only talk to detective Mindhorn, oblivious to the fact that the Isle of Man’s favourite corruption-correcter is of course nothing but a fictional character. Nevertheless, step forward Richard Thornton, a.k.a Mindhorn. Not quite the man he once was, but in reprising his semi-famous alter ego of yesteryear, Thornton is now duty bound to perform the role of his life…
Mindhorn follows that not so original, rather well-worn path of mixing comedy with farcical crime caper. Done to death? Sure, but when done well it always seems to provide a solidly reliable platform upon which decent comedians and actors can strut their stuff.
And strut, they do…
With Julian Barratt on board, Mindhorn is a film that need not worry too much about employing any tired concepts, nor concern itself with the struggle to adapt comedy for the big screen; Barratt absolutely steals the show from start to finish portraying a man of massive delusions and a toe-curling lack of self-awareness. Crucially though, Thornton, whilst being a fairly tragic character, is also one with whom one can’t help but empathise. This man was once Mindhorn, so just where did it all go wrong?
Simon Farnaby, on the other hand, plays Thornton’s one time stunt double and hugely smug love rival, Clive Parnevik – a semi-naked man so laid-back Dutch, he’s visually virtually orange. Both in the 80’s and still to the present day, the pair of them are unable to set aside an ongoing petty spat, as they continually spar in a game of one-upmanship for the lovely Patricia’s attentions.
In fairness, she’d probably be quite happy without either of them.
With Baby Cow Films on board, it’s no surprise that aspects of both The Mighty Boosh and various Alan Partridge-esque elements are very much in evidence. Shades of Alan Partridge’s mega-fan and stalker, Ged, in particular spring to mind. Indeed, Steve Coogan himself portrays successful, all-round pompous git, Peter Eastman, a sort of more glamorous Tony Hayers – type character, with the power to commission (or not) the Mindhorn box set re-issue that Thornton covets so greatly.
It’s all great fun, and consistently delivers the goods with a generous helping of genuinely funny, actual laugh-inducing spoken and visual gags. Yes, there are one or two lulls in it, and occasional moments when it all appears to be running out of puff, yet it always successfully manages to stay on course and hauls itself back from the brink.
By all accounts, Mindhorn – with frequent comedic references to Bergerac’s John Nettles, throughout – was devised to be as much a heartfelt homage to 1980’s detective shows as it was to be a merciless send-up of the much-loved genre (something that it executes splendidly, I should add), and on balance it achieves both goals. It even goes so far as to incorporate that most mandatory of appendages to 80’s TV stardom, the hit record – all perms, guitar solos and rolled-up suit jacket sleeves on big-spectacled keyboard players.
“You can’t handcuff the wind” – indeed.
Absolutely destined for cult status amongst students, comedy aficionados and anoraks the length and breadth of this country, Mindhorn is by some distance the funniest film of both this and the last few years.