When it came out on DVD, I bought a copy of The Brothers Grimsby because the two main actors are both highly skilled. Mark Strong is a ubiquitous performer who has excelled in so many films, from Our Friends in the North to Sherlock Holmes, from Kingsmen to Anna Karenina and RocknRolla. He has been in Prime Suspect and also in Twelfth Night. Strong is a versatile and consummate performer and in this film he stars alongside Sacha Baron Cohen.
Baron Cohen studied History at Cambridge before being tutored by a French drama teacher called Philippe Gaulier,whose style of physical theatre, mime and clowning owes much to Jacques Lecoq, the guru of movement-based theatre. Other students of Gaulier include Emma Thompson, Simon McBurney of Theatre de Complicite and Helena Bonham Carter, who have all acquired strong skills under Gaulier’s tuition. Baron Cohen’s training has been evident in all of his clown roles and Grimsby is no different.
I could take or leave Ali G: I didn’t like Bruno and I refused to be offended by Borat. I did quite enjoy The Dictator and I believe that there is a place in comedy for iconoclasm and pushing barriers. This said, I laughed out loud at The Brothers Grimsby from start to finish. It is a genuinely funny film.
The story is straight from the Blood Brothers genre: separated as orphans, Sebastian becomes a secret agent with MI6 and his elder brother, Nobby, is a heavy drinking football- mad father of eleven who lives in an English fishing town. The brothers have been separated for 28 years but Nobby is ever-hopeful that they will be reunited one day. They finally meet at a benefit where Sebastian is attempting to foil an assassination attempt. Of course, it all goes horribly wrong and there are scandalous occurrences involving Daniel Radcliffe before the brothers embark on a picaresque adventure to save the world. Their exploits culminate in a climax of action in Chile at an England vs. Germany football final.
There are some hilarious scenes. Without giving away too many spoilers, the spy on the run and his hapless brother hide from assassins inside an elephant’s vagina. Nobby imitates James Bond in South Africa and seduces the wrong woman. Nobby’s kids save the day more than once and there is a beautiful speech, Braveheart-style, at the end of the film where Nobby incites the football fans of Grimsby to rise up and fight against oppression. The end of the film is predictable but hilarious as fireworks explode in strange places and even Donald Trump has a minor role, albeit an ignominious one.
The Brothers Grimsby is a film which didn’t receive good ratings. This is probably because the same old jokes about penises and oral sex and bottoms are reinvented in a new context. I found it funny, quite harmless, charming, satirical and, in its own way, a bit of political lehrstucke in the Brechtian style as family loyalty is supremely important for Nobby. It’s not the type of film I watch often, but it is pure escapism and it’s lively and iconoclastic and well performed. It’s best watched as a mates’ film, with a few beers and some tacos after a hard day when belly laughs are needed most.
It is also quite uncanny how Baron Cohen and Strong evoke a parody of Liam Gallagher and Vin Diesel as two bungling spies. It’s conceptually both clever and ridiculous, as most of Baron Cohen’s stuff is. I enjoyed it!