How else could you possibly start a Sacha Baron Cohen film but with a grotesque sex scene over an R. Kelly track. Not to mention a low-brow Cosby crack.
In The Brothers Grimsby, Nobby (Cohen) is a lowly, dim man who has been waiting for his brother Sebastian’s (Mark Strong) return for 28 years. Sebastian, now an MI6 secret agent, has no intention of ever being found.
The opening credits action scene is surprisingly well-choreographed, using POV video game camera logic just a month before Hardcore Henry will attempt to do the same to a wide audience. The first person shooter perspective is engaging.
During a mission, Sebastian is interrupted by Nobby, causing an errant gunshot that causes Sebastian to be framed for an attempted assassination. Crass and physical humor abound as Sebastian tries to right his secret agent status and Nobby just tries to reunite with his brother.
To his credit, Mark Strong’s gruff straight man routine is fairly effective, for the most part. However, this may be just because he is not the one delivering ill-fated laugh lines.
The overly crass comic gags in this film are crass for crass sake, using shock value to get cheap laughs and groans. Although this isn’t out of character for Cohen, the tactic really misses the mark here.
The actual plot of the film doesn’t make up for these tepid gags. The spy plot is half-baked and littered with nameless antagonists that are largely inconsequential. In a way, it feels like the entire plot of the film was conjured for the sake of diverting to gross gags and not to be a plot at all.
The Brothers Grimsby does have its moments. An energetic soundtrack. A capable Mark Strong. It does have its comedic moments as well, but they are small moments. Minor jokes made in passing land fine, but that’s not enough to carry a comedy film. Add to that that the small is substantially overshadowed by the over-the-top gags, and you are left with a huge misfire.
Cohen’s habit of pushing buttons with his comedy has grown stale, steadily declining since his smash hit Borat. Now, he seems to be exploiting gags to the highest extent of grotesqueness without any payoff. Making things grosser than you’d think a movie would go is not a satisfying substitute for comedy.
As always, thanks for reading!
Have you seen The Brothers Grimsby? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)