When Sacha Baron Cohen burnt the reputation of an entire country, especially one as harmless and unsuspecting as Kazakhstan, he hit a comedic high which he will frankly never surpass. That is nothing to be ashamed of, though. Grimsby stands as a respectable return to form for the controversial comedian, blending social satire and simply outrageous set-pieces to deliver a soulful, if formulaic, look at the north of England.
Grimsby, or The Brothers Grimsby as it is called in America, follows Nobby Butcher (Cohen), a football hooligan and father of 9 from the eponymous town. Nobby is searching for his long-lost brother who turns out to be an MI6 agent in the form of Sebastian Graves (Mark Strong), and once the two are reunited they embark on a mission to clear Sebastian’s name and stop a terrorist cell from killing people.
"a soulful, if formulaic, look at the north of England"
The plot is as simple as they come, with a virtually non-existent villain, but Grimsby is totally aware of this. There is major heart to this film which subverts the fictional British image of the sexy spy seducing improbably gorgeous women. Grimsby celebrates English culture, and goes much further than the obvious sartorial oxymoron of Sebastian’s turtleneck and Nobby’s retro England shirt. Celebrated are the brutes of the north, the unremarkable, unemployable forgotten who are so sparsely represented on screen. It shouldn’t be, but absolutely is, refreshing to root for characters like Nobby and Rebel Wilson’s hilarious Dawn. I haven’t seen the working class so heroically portrayed since The Full Monty.
One could easily point the finger at Baron-Cohen and accuse the Cambridge-educated millionaire of poking fun at less-affluent Britain, but he has drawn these characters with too much charm for that to be seriously argued. Their hearts beat proudly, no matter how much social hierarchy, kebabs and John Smiths try to stop them.
More like this: Bruno (2009)