Release date: 24 February 2016
Running time: 83 min
Director: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Penelope Cruz, Rebel Wilson, Gabourey Sidibe, Ian McShane.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest bad taste odyssey arrives in theatres within a few days of Hollywood’s prestigious Academy awards, and it couldn’t have been better timed. While everyone ponders whether Leo will finally get his Oscar, and stars swoon and fawn over each other like they’ve just cured cancer, Cohen bulldozes in and takes everything down a peg or ten. Much like South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone he cares little about who he pisses off along the way, but beneath the puerile humour lies a subtle and admirable intelligence.
Nobby Butcher (Cohen) is a horrendous stereotype of an English hooligan; perpetually stuck in the lager-swillling, Oasis-loving, Three Lions-chanting era of the Lad. He has nine kids and lives on welfare with his ‘fit as fuck’ girlfriend (Wilson) in the northern seaside town of Grimsby. After an unfortunate encounter with his long lost, MI6 agent brother Sebastian (Strong), he brings him back home to hide from the authorities and meet the fam. But when Sebastian’s cover is blown by Nobby and his inept mates, they flee the UK and begin a globetrotting, Bond-esque adventure. Only with added shit, balls and spunk jokes.
There’s a line of taste which Grimsby gleefully tramples over, and depending on where your comedy preferences lie you will either embrace or vehemently reject it. It’s difficult to argue with those who will inevitably loathe it and its mission to shock its audience into laughter. Is it disrespectful to women? Possibly. Does it give an unfair representation of the North? Probably. However its absurdist approach to gross-out humour is undeniably inventive, at one point reaching a zenith that is so ridiculous that the idea of someone not laughing at it only serves to make it funnier. At times it even recalls Tom Green’s extremely polarising Freddy Got Fingered; which depending on who you are will either be music to your ears or serve as a warning to avoid.
It’s not Cohen’s best. There are times where the jokes fall flat, and he clearly wants to have his cake and eat it when it comes to the representation of the working classes. As with many of his creations he constructs them to play on people’s prejudices and expectations, but you wonder if he has entirely pulled it off here or whether Nobby is the butt of one too many jokes. Its also success largely rides on four or five extremely funny scenes; what links them isn’t particularly special. One things for sure though: like it or not, you won’t forget it in a hurry.