The Brothers Grimsby (2016)

The Brothers Grimsby, poster

Released: March 11, 2016. Directed by: Louis Leterrier. Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher. Runtime: 1hr, 23 min.

I’m a huge fan of Sacha Baron Cohen’s work in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan – the titular journalist character is rather brilliant. And his creation of the character Ali G was also quite funny.

His comedic work really makes him a unique figure, but he hasn’t made a great comedic character since Borat – as both the titular character in Brüno and Aladeen in The Dictator were hit-and-miss.

With Nobby Butcher in The Brothers Grimsby, he creates another hit-and-miss character – but at least gives him some stronger development. Nobby is a drunken football hooligan cheating the welfare system, living in the poverty-stricken town of Grimsby, cheering for his main team England.

When he was a kid, he was separated from his younger brother Sebastian through Grimsby’s orphanage system. Sebastian (Mark Strong) is now the top agent of MI6, on assignment to prevent the assassination of philanthropist Rhonda George (Penelope Cruz), and to uncover a huge terrorism plot by a group called Maelstrom.

When Nobby is able to get tickets to the charity ball and reunite with his brother after 28 years, he hugs him which causes Sebastian to miss his shot on an assassin (Scott Adkins) and hit a spokesperson instead. This mistake causes the other MI6 agents to think he has gone rogue – and Nobby and Sebastian are forced on the run.

The Brothers Grimsby - Hug it out

Grimsby is another addition to the cannon of unlikely people finding themselves in bigger-than-themselves spy missions as a spy, like Johnny English and Spy. While the world created here is a good base for Nobby’s hijinks, he is nowhere near as amusing as Rowan Atkinson’s Johnny English or as hilarious as Melissa McCarthy’s Susan Cooper in Spy.

The story is a bit heartwarming with the brother dynamic but the really raunchy and often gross-out humour rarely hits. The action set pieces are pretty good, well-filmed with Louis Leterrier’s style of direction.

The film is at its most effective in terms of comedy when Nobby is making awful decisions – but humour is ineffective when they hide away from government assassins inside of an elephant, and get stuck in there during mating hour. Yuck.

One masterwork of Grimsby is the casting of Mark Strong. It feels like he could be cast as an actual MI6 agent in a spy franchise so that’s what helps create a believable world. He does his job as the straight man for Nobby’s jokes, even though Nobby’s humour never really hit for me.

At least the film doesn’t stick around for very long. The only part worth rooting about is Donald Trump being the butt of a joke. He’s horrendously rendered via CGI, and there’s a really bad stand-in Daniel Radcliffe as well, but those are really the only jokes that hit for me. And the fact that Nobby’s look is based off of Liam Gallagher’s look is amusing.

Score: 40/100

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The Dictator (2012)

The DictatorThe Dictator

Release Date: May 16, 2012

Director: Larry Charles

Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Anna Farris

Runtime: 98 min (Extended Version)

The Republic of Wadiya is ruled by an eccentric and oppressive leader named Hafez Aladeen. Aladeen is summoned to New York to a UN assembly to address concerns about his country’s nuclear weapons program, but the trip goes awry.

The Dictator is exactly what you’ll expect from a Sacha Baron Cohen movie. It’s going to be rude, crude, filled with racist and sexist remarks, it’s sometimes pretty nasty, usually stupid and hilarious, and it’ll probably have some male frontal nudity. Cohen’s films are usually pretty stupid, but this one actually has a nice plot.
It’s sort of like a Prince and the Pauper premise. When Aladeen and his advisors get to America, his right-hand man – Tamir (Ben Kingsley) – backstabs him to by replacing him with a dim-witted doppelgänger. He must find a way to get to a new signing of a UN document, because Tamir wants democracy in Wadiya. Aladeen must pair up with Zoey, a hairy little woman who looks like a ten-year old boy (as Aladeen calls her) to stop the signing of the document and keep democracy out of his country. Women’s rights? Voting? Who wants that?

It is boring in the beginning, but it finds its pacing and it gets pretty interesting and even funnier. It is sometimes pretty nasty and ridiculous, but that’s just Cohen’s brand of humour. If you don’t like that sort of stuff, this won’t be your type of movie. But for the aimed demographic, they’ll love this treat. However, while it may be nasty at times, it usually is really funny. The rudeness of it all is just not for everyone. It really offers a fun experience for any of those who can appreciate it.

The concept of a woman’s love changing a man for the better has been used many times before, so Cohen resorts to an old age tale in that way. However, it isn’t like he’s a slacker or anything, he’s a dictator who thinks he executed hundreds of people. Zoey starts to change his ways, and she teaches him how to masturbate in a sort of hilarious scene that includes an eagle soaring majestically and Forrest Gump breaking out of his leg brace. Leave it to Cohen to think of things that are so ridiculous, but so funny.

Someone who also helps Aladeen is a missile developer back in Wadiya, Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas) who Aladeen thought was “executed”, but he was really sent to America. He shares many of Aladeen’s beliefs, but they make this film feel like a buddy comedy at some points in the film. One really odd character is this sort of ninja who uses her ginormous boob as a weapon. Remember when Borat nude wrestles with Azamat in Borat? Well, this woman sort of beats Aladeen up with her big tit… It’s a little odd, even for anyone who enjoys Cohen’s unique sense of humour… But he is one edgy guy, and it’s certainly never been done before.

The Dictator is an attempt from Cohen that is much better than Brüno, but it’s no Borat. However, he makes a great attempt at stringing a good plot line, and bringing us a great new character in the process. It offers some fine entertainment value for the time-being, and it’s a fun and funny experience. It’s a great racist comedy that finds its pacing when he and his crew get to America. It’s fine that he used the Prince and the Pauper premise, but he does resort to the old-age tale of women changing men for the better. Whatever, you did us well, Cohen.

70/100