Plain, Simple Tom reviews . . . “Mindhorn” (2016)

Penned by and starring The Mighty Boosh‘s Julian Barratt and Horrible Histories‘ Simon Farnaby, Mindhorn is about washed-up actor Richard Thorncroft who used to be the star of a hugely popular 80s TV spy show and is recruited into helping the Isle of Man police catch a killer/abductor, dubbed “The Kestrel”, who believes that Mindhorn is a real person, only willing to deal with him.

Despite coming from the minds of two comically talented people, Mindhorn is quintessentially unfunny and the jokes miss their mark a great deal of the time. Despite smiling a few times at Simon Farnaby’s random, unplaceable accent (Dutch?), I can honestly say that I didn’t laugh once as this film is a comedy wasteland and so much of the humour is a damp squib, much of it quite dated and with that nagging feeling of “it’s been done before”.

The comedy often veers off into the crass and offensive, perfectly personified by Ricard McCabe’s publicist character Geoffrey Moncrieff – a slovenly, greasy, thick-accented Scot who lives in a squalid caravan, snorts cocaine and makes a fair few dirty jokes. I mean, really? Does a paying audience deserve this kind of offensive, unsympathetic character? Unfortunately, it’s in moments like this where the film plumbs some awkward depths and gives us some misjudged, embarrassing characters.

But Simon Farnaby did coax a few half-smiles out of me. He’s probably the most positive part of the film that I can think of.

Nearly all of the actors look embarrassed to be involved in the film and it saddens me to see that they dragged poor Kenneth Branagh and Simon Callow into cameo roles. There are actually some unexpected big names in the cast, a couple of whom I completely failed to recognise – The Babadook‘s Essie Davis plays Richard’s love interest Patricia (to her credit, she actually comes off rather well in this film, not losing any street cred), Russell Tovey certainly ain’t doing his career any favours with the awkward, questionable character that he plays and Andrea Riseborough, who I not too long ago proclaimed to be a glowing star on the rise (borough!😝), has to clown it up as police officer Baines. Geez.

And of course there’s Julian Barratt in the leading role of Richard Thorncroft. Although he loses none of his dignity and carries the film as best he can, he is surprisingly unfunny and goes through his share of embarrasing moments.

The story of Mindhorn is utterly predictable, uninspired and carries that air of being derivative of the likes of Galaxy Quest and Tropic Thunder. As such, it is a real challenge to get invested in the story given the fact that it’s all so dull and the characters are either paper thin or activity unlikable. It features a central conspiracy that is boring and nonsensical and its ending raises all sorts of questions as it seems to defy all logic and is a bona fide eye-roller; a certain part also got the audience laughing even though the joke involved was blindingly obvious and I could see it coming a mile off. There is also plenty of mawkish sentimentality that is embarrassing and painful to endure.

And perhaps surprisingly, the film is quite drab and the cinematography is unappealing – surprising because the Isle of Man is actually a lovely place, from what I’ve seen. It got me thinking of a short film that I saw during the Banff Mountain Film Festival which was pretty much a promotional video and featured someone freerunning around the Isle. Even though that film was only a couple of minutes long, THAT had so much more heart, a lot more thought went into it and was far nicer to look at.

And Ridley Scott was executive producer for this film! I sure hope that it’s a different Ridley Scott, maybe one from the Isle of Man (!) but if it was in fact the real one, I sure hope he asked for his money back.


Woefully unfunny with a dull, predictable story and a whole host of embarrassed looking actors. Drivel.

Congratulations, Suicide Squad – you now finally have a companion in my “one star film club”

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