The 80s are definitely hip again. Either that, or there’s some kind of underground cult that forces filmmakers to do something on the decade before moving on to other things. Short films like Kung Fury, series like Stranger Things and Glow, or even most of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack feed the nostalgia for a time when fashion sense was momentarily lost and haircuts defied aesthetics.
Enter actor Sean Foley and his first feature film directed for the big screen, Mindhorn. Released straight to Netflix everyone but the UK (where the appeal of seeing Julian Barratt and Steve Coogan was thought to get some pound love at the box office), Mindhorn is Birdman meets Galaxy Quest – only in a very British, very awkward way. Actor Richard Thorncroft (Barratt) was the star of Mindhorn, a cyborguish police detective show from the 80s, all shot in the Isle of Man. Everything was going great for him – the money, the fame, the love with screen partner Patricia Deville (Essie Davis). But things went downhill when he disappear to try his luck in America. Now, he’s bald, fat, living in Walthamstow and has no work – that until the Isle of Man police contacts him to help capturing a dangerous deranged maniac, who believes Mindhorn is real…
Mindhorn is enjoyable and endurable, but somewhat fails to deliver on its concept after the initial 15 minutes. For all the cameos and the ten years that the script spent on development, it still feels a bit too much paint by numbers, with nothing particularly wacky or – a comedy sin – funny. The physical comedy is atrocious, and though the actors deliver – Barratt and Coogan playing themselves as usual, and Russell Tovey (as Paul Melly/The Kestral) going for the the exact mix of craziness and naivety – the film just falls short of its potential. Thorncroft is too much of a loser, there is no such thing as a proper villain (motorbike shooter, really?), things just happen with no interference from the characters whatsoever, and some subplots feel unnecessary – like Mindhorn’s supposed daughter and his riff with Peter Eastman (Coogan). The only comedy relief of what is, basically, a low-budget detective story, is given by impeccable-timing, topless Clive Parnevik (Simon Farnaby), Mindhorn’s stunt double and now Patricia’s husband, with his deadpan jokes and constant sarcasm.
Not being British comedy’s best, Mindhorn isn’t the worse either, and fans of Barratt will still get some enjoyment from this family friendly film. As for the others, there’s always the first 15 minutes, Farnaby and the Ginga/Capoeira final fight.
Mindhorn will be available for digital download from 28th August 2017, and on DVD and Blu-ray from 4th September.