Film review: Grimsby

Sacha Baron Cohen as Nobby in Grimsby.
Sacha Baron Cohen as Nobby in Grimsby.
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Only Sacha Baron Cohen could get away with rehashing the hackneyed plot of a hapless fool being mistaken for a suave superspy.

Most recently Melissa McCarthy blundered through the world of espionage in Spy. Now Cohen does it and in doing so adds Nobby Butcher to his repertoire of comic grotesques.

Nobby – father of 11, admirer of overweight women, swigger of lager and resident of Grimsby (twinned with Chernobyl) – longs to be reunited with his brother, lost for 28 years. The two men are brought together in odd circumstances. Nobby is still the same working class lad he always was but brother Sebastian is now a top M-16 agent. Cue a succession of mishaps as these dysfunctional siblings are thrust together to prevent murder on an industrial scale.

Okay, forget the Bond-style subplot. Grimsby is an excuse for Cohen and Mark Strong, playing his brother with an admirably straight face in very trying (and occasionally very funny) circumstances.

As with the antics and Borat and Ali G, Nobby is a fish out of water. His smooth, elegant, superviolent brother can do nothing to educate or improve him. Instead this mismatched duo embarks on a globetrotting adventure soaked in bodily fluids and the fear of being gay.

The comedy of Grimsby is unsubtle and of the unreconstructed northern variety. But the interplay between Cohen and Strong – with useful cameos from Rebel Wilson, Penelope Cruz and a bevy of juveniles adding colour as Nobby’s kids – is what drives the frequently wince-inducing laughs.

Once again Cohen stretches the boundaries of acceptability. But he does it like only he can.