Mindhorn is an independent comedy film written by Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby, and directed by Sean Foley. Barratt and Farnaby star in the film, alongside Essie Davis, Russell Tovey, and Steve Coogan.
The film follows the adventure of Richard Thorncroft [Julian Barratt], an ageing actor struggling to find new roles after the long-gone success he found in the 1980s as Bruce Mindhorn, a tv detective with a “super-advanced optical lie detector”. Thorncroft must return to the filming location of the Mindhorn series, the Isle of Man, in order to solve real crime by working with the island’s police department. The reprisal is prompted when a supposed killer named Paul “Kestral” Melly [Russell Tovey] requests his presence after believing Mindhorn to be a real person. On his mission, Mindhorn must also deal with his jealous ex-stuntman Clive Parnevik [Simon Farnaby], his ex-lover Patricia Deville [Essie Davis] and his arch nemesis Peter Easterman [Steve Coogan].
Julian Barratt is magnificently silly as Thorncroft, a character who often finds himself at the centre of absurd scenarios. Simon Farnaby is also hilarious as Clive Parnevik, a strange and frequently topless man. Essie Davis plays Patricia Deville, who fits into the role of a more conventional person in order to contrast against the more eccentric characters.
Up until watching Mindhorn, I hadn’t seen Julian Barratt in other film or television roles other than as Howard Moon from The Mighty Boosh (2004-2007). As a big Mighty Boosh fan, I’ve watched the TV series too many times to count, and I guess I sort of perceived Julian Barratt and Howard Moon as being the same person (ironically enough, based on Mindhorn’s plot). Watching the film, I felt like I placed a lot of expectations on Barratt to basically be Howard Moon, and although a fair number of the jokes were somewhat mediocre, I found myself thinking – well, it must still be funny because it’s Howard Moon. Alas, Mindhorn is a very different kind of comedy when compared to The Mighty Boosh, it’s a lot more structured and predictable.
The film’s plot results in Mindhorn being quite limited and predictable a times, but nonetheless I think there was space for the twists and turns to be more surprising had they been set up consistently. Despite the predictability, there are some thoughtful moments peppered throughout the film which give it a bit more heart than being a mindless comedy. The comedy itself falls into the realm of goofiness. The humour is by no means dry, instead a lot of scenes are an exercise of slapstick, which is often just as enjoyable. The plot was also fairly original, and whilst I can recall having seen tv shows with similar episodes, I’ve never seen a film with the particular niche of a television detective solving real crime.
I think the main reoccurring theme of the film is its exploitation of the washed-up actor character trope, who is embodied as Richard Thorncroft. Maybe it’s the kind of schadenfreude feeling we might experience watching a character like Thorncroft, that gives Mindhorn a little more thoughtfulness than its contemporaries.
In summary, Mindhorn is a thoroughly enjoyable film, and will most likely give you a few laughs, but don’t expect anything groundbreaking. If you’re in the mood for something silly, Mindhorn may be just the ticket.