Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 23 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Crude Sexual Content, Graphic Nudity, Violence, Language, and some Drug Use
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Written by: Sacha Baron Cohen & Phil Johnston
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Gabourey Sidibe, Annabelle Wallis & Ian McShane
Sacha Baron Cohen seems to be a polarizing figure in comedy. You either love him or you don’t. While he made a huge splash with the 2006’s controversial hit BORAT, Cohen has continued to make raunchier than raunchy R-rated comedies that have received varying degrees of success among critics and the general public. THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY is pretty much just another cinematic vehicle for Sacha Baron Cohen to run hog-wild with over-the-top sex jokes, disgusting humor, and offensive one-liners. If you’re into that sort of thing, you’ll enjoy this movie. I am a fan of that sort of thing and was very entertained for 83 minutes.
Nobby and Sebastian are two brothers who were separated by adoption. Sebastian is a deadly secret agent and Nobby is a white trash soccer hooligan who has spent years searching for his baby brother. Fate just so happens to throw Nobby into Sebastian’s path during an assassination plot. This encounter results in Sebastian’s dangerous mission being compromised and MI6 believing that their best agent has gone rogue. Soon enough, the mismatched pair of brothers are on the run from terrorists and MI6 agents. That’s all I’ll say about the plot because it’s rather inconsequential and merely serves as an excuse for lots of crude humor…almost all of which is very funny.
Sacha Baron Cohen has played many colorful characters during his career and Nobby is normal when compared to the likes of Ali G, Bruno, Borat, and Admiral General Aladeen. Nobby is just a white trash soccer hooligan who happens to have a secret agent for a brother. This sort of idiot sibling character has been done before, but Cohen still manages to make this role his own with great line delivery and sheer body language. Playing the straight man to Cohen is Mark Strong, who never once gives anything resembling a comedic performance in this film. He’s an eternally serious spy who becomes increasingly distressed by his brother’s stupidity. The chemistry between Strong and Cohen is the best thing in BROTHERS GRIMSBY. Watching these two very different performers play off each other provides some of the biggest laughs in the film.
Though the two leading performances are fun, GRIMSBY’s supporting cast is a bit weak. None of these characters really have a purpose other than being plot devices or glorified cameos. Isla Fisher (as an agent) only exists to spout exposition. Ian McShane (another agent) barks orders. Rebel Wilson (as Nobby’s white trash girlfriend) is only in the film for a combined total of ten minutes. Penelope Cruz (playing a wealthy environmentalist) doesn’t exactly have a big part to play in the proceedings, even though we’re told otherwise. These side characters aren’t important though as this is mainly a two person show and the leading duo are more than up to the task of making us laugh our asses off at inappropriate jokes.
GRIMSBY’s humor is beyond juvenile and downright repugnant at times, but it still made me laugh very loudly the whole way through. Sacha Baron Cohen (also serving as one of the three writers on this film) is still a master of taking simple jokes and pushing them to hilarious, uncomfortable extremes. There is plenty of gratuitous nudity and crudeness, but both of those come expected with any R-rated Cohen flick. He relies on gross-outs and shock humor…and just happens to be very funny at both. The promotional material has not given away the best parts of this movie either as they simply wouldn’t fit within the confines of a green band or a two-minute red band trailer. A scene involving an elephant made me laugh to the point where I had to wipe tears away from my eyes.
The biggest problem that I have with THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY is that it tries to incorporate emotional flashbacks of Nobby and Sebastian as children between ridiculously funny moments. Though these flashbacks gave additional information to these characters’ pasts and developed them a bit beyond one-note jokes, the tone didn’t meld with the rest of the over-the-top proceedings. The movie goes from having a gross-out fellatio joke to a sad scene of children separating. These tonal shifts just didn’t blend well together.
As a whole, BROTHERS GRIMSBY will likely satisfy fans of Sacha Baron Cohen’s extreme shock humor. GRIMSBY may not be on the same level of BORAT or BRUNO, but I’d rank it alongside THE DICTATOR as a good-but-not-great R-rated comedy. The side characters were bland and the flashbacks were distracting, but the chemistry between Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong as well as the extreme gross-out humor are the real reasons to watch this film. If you appreciate those latter qualities, then you’ll probably be entertained by this comedy that’s short, sweet, and to-the-point.