Grimsby is the perfect film in many ways because it reviews itself – watching it was a grim experience.
The film tells the story of Agent Sebastian Grimsby (Mark Strong) who runs into his long lost brother, Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen) while on a mission, and chaos ensues as the two try to save the world from a fiendish plot.
Along for the ride are Rebel Wilson as Nobby’s girlfriend, Isla Fisher as Sebastian’s mission control Margaret, and Penélope Cruz as the humanitarian Kate.
We’ll get the good out of the way first – and there are a few highlight’s in Grimsby, although admittedly the film’s good moments are few and far between.
Firstly, the action is very well shot and creative, especially during the opening chase scene which is wonderfully presented through Sebastian’s eyes as he pursues a dangerous terrorist. The first person perspective made the fights incredibly visceral and, honestly, wouldn’t be out of place in a Bourne movie.
Mark Strong, of course, was incredible and does a lot of the heavy lifting in the film, nearly convincing me at one point that I cared about the brothers’ reunion – although why he’s in the film I really don’t know, surely there were other jobs available to him?
Cohen meanwhile isn’t bad, but it’s more of the same from the once great comedy actor, and it’s a shame to see him rely on knob and gay jokes when he was once so original.
As farcical as the plot is in Grimsby, one of the film’s greatest highlights was its ridiculously tight script. Its story was incredibly well put together and every joke it set up was paid off later in the film. It’s just a shame that, while the plot was tight, the comedy itself was about as snug as Nobby’s arsehole at the end of the film.
Unfortunately, Grimsby ultimately fails as a film for the same reason a lot of comedies do – it’s just not funny enough.
It tries to use bad comedy’s favourite magic trick of over the top jokes about shocking subjects like AIDS, sex and drugs, in the hope that you’ll be so ‘shocked and appalled’ that you won’t have noticed that what the characters are actually saying isn’t that clever or funny.
The best example of that is a completely misjudged joke about paedophilia and sex offenders near the end of the movie, which was so unfunny that it caused the already silent cinema I was in to somehow get even quieter, as though the joke had created a black hole of awkwardness sucking in all hope of laughter.
Beyond that, however, there were several times during the film where I had to physically look away from the screen through sheer embarrassment for the actors involved. The scene that tipped the film over the edge of raunchy humour into adolescent filth for me was a gag involving the brothers hiding inside an elephant’s vagina and being bashed about by a penis, before nearly drowning in cum. Yes, honestly.
The film also spectacularly fails to balance its own three competing narratives. It tries to be a parody of classic spy thrillers while also trying to be a bawdy comedy, and at the same time tries to make you empathise with the separated brothers reunion. There’s so much going on that it never found the right tone and, at times, it left me genuinely confused about what I was supposed to be feeling.
Beyond that, the film also has some really weird class politics at the centre of it that I don’t want to get into, but which made me feel uneasy.
The best way to describe the experience of watching Grimsby is it’s the cinematic equivalent of watching a drunk guy at a party – sure they’re funny at times, but they’ve no idea when they’ve crossed the line from chuckles to sheer horror and you just want them to stop.
All in all, while the film was an utter car crash in my opinion, the group I watched it with seemed to be having a good time (paedophile jokes aside) so I’m willing to accept that there is an audience out there for it, it’s just not one I’d be rushing out to see any time soon if I were you.