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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

Mindhorn movie review: fame and fatuity

Mindhorn green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
A wonderfully silly sendup of fandom and nostalgia… and an absolutely hilarious smackdown of actorly pomposity and delusions of celebrity grandeur.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

You remember Mindhorn, don’t you? The hit 80s British detective show about the detective with the bionic eye that could “see truth”? And his catchphrase was a low rumble of “It’s truth time”? C’mon! It was like The Six Million Dollar Man meets Magnum PI… except, of course, it was set on the Isle of Man instead of Hawaii, but they’re almost the same place, right? (Spoiler for my American readers: The Isle of Man is a small rugged place in the middle of the Irish Sea. It’s about as far from a tropical paradise as an island can be without tipping over into being Iceland.)

C’mon, you remember Mindhorn. It was like The Six Million Dollar Man meets Magnum PI
tweet

I honestly did a double take when I started hearing about Mindhorn the movie: Was it a real show? It wasn’t… but this wonderfully silly sendup of fandom and nostalgiatweet does a terrific job of making us wish that it was. From the goofy action sequences to the oh-so-80s opening credits — presented in the film with the full glory of wavering images, tracking lines, and all the charming distortions of an old and overloved VHS recording — we get enough of a taste of Mindhorn the show that I’d love to giggle over some more.

But Mindhorn the movie is not about Mindhorn the show: it’s about washed-up actor Richard Thorncroft, who played Mindhorn but can’t get a gig these days. That’s because he’s a talentless hack, an impediment made worse by his delusions of celebrity grandeur… and those delusions are only amplified when a murderer on the loose on the Isle of Man taunts police with telephone calls during which he insists that he will talk only to Detective Mindhorn, whom he appears to think is a real person.

Truth time: Ladies can’t resist an eyepatch. Mindhorn!

Truth time: Ladies can’t resist an eyepatch. Mindhorn!tweet

Cue law-enforcement shenanigans, although the crime plot is almost entirely superfluous; it is of the cheesy-mystery variety that a show like Mindhorn would have played with episode after episode, however, which is fun. Mindhorn is mostly about turning star and cowriter Julian Barratt, of comedy troupe The Mighty Boosh, loose to have an absolute ball as Thorncroft, indulging in all the worst stereotypes of actors with enormous relish. (The other writer is Barratt’s Boosh coconspirator Simon Farnaby, who also appears as Thorncroft’s former stuntman.) There’s a tiny hint of Galaxy Quest, too, in how love of a TV show can inspire fanstweet to be brave and to do good things they might not otherwise do (this is not the murderer, obviously). The supporting cast is an absolute riot: Harriet Walter (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Thorncroft’s agent; Kenneth Branagh (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and Simon Callow (Viceroy’s House) cameoing as themselves, forcing themselves to tolerate Thorncroft’s idiocy; Steve Coogan (The Secret Life of Pets) and Essie Davis (The Babadook ) as Thorncroft’s former costars, who do not tolerate his idiocy; and Andrea Riseborough (Birdman) as a cop and Russell Tovey (Pride) as a civilian witness, perfectly straight-faced straight men to Barratt’s hilarious pomposity.

And every time you start to feel just a teeny bit sorry for Thorncroft, he does something so revolting, so outrageously self-centered, that any hint of empathy gets smashed. Which is just the way it should be.


Mindhorn is available to stream on Netflix in the US.


green light 3.5 stars

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Mindhorn (2017) | directed by Sean Foley
US/Can release: direct to Netflix
UK/Ire release: May 05 2017

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, drug misuse)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • bronxbee

    definitely on my list!

  • No word on a US release yet, but I’d be surprised if this didn’t just go straight to VOD in the US. It’s probably too weirdly British for mainstream America.

  • sounds like they couldn’t get William Shatner for it.

  • This is too British for Shatner! :-)

  • He’s CANADIAN!!!

  • Lee Hambly

    Still not british :P

  • David_Conner

    I’ll watch for the American release, but US readers can experience something along similar lines – the failed pilot *Lookwell* from Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel, starring Adam West as a former cop show star.

    It has one of my favorite lines ever: “Bob Conrad may not take his honorary LAPD badge seriously… but I do!”

  • *Mindhorn* is now on US Netflix.

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