Actor, Writer and now Director, Mindhorn is Sean Foley's feature length directorial debut.
"Get me Mindhorn!"
A Netflix original, executive produced by Ridley Scott and his production company Scott Free and co produced by Isle of Man films, BBC films and the British Film Institute (BFI), Mindhorn is a mess but a glorious and wickedly funny mess at times that never takes itself seriously as it pokes fun at 1980's style television series such as Steve Austin, The Six Million Dollar Man interspersed with the awkwardly embarrassing comedic styles of John Cleese or a latter day Alan Partridge. Between the opening credits of 4:3 Ratio shots of the spoof 1980's television series "Mindhorn" and "You Can't Handcuff the Wind" accompanying the closing credits we have a strangely and awkwardly funny film that runs out of steam and ideas but over the course of the 90 minute film does land some brilliant comedic twists and turns that truly enliven an original and unique film. Based on an original idea by Simon Farnaby and written for the screen by Simon and fellow co-star Julian Barratt, the film has been variously described in many quarters and indeed by the writers themselves as a cross between 1980's television shows such as the aforementioned Steve Austin as well as BBC staple back in the day, Bergerac, set as it is on the Isle of Man and with it's principal and titular character "Mindhorn" (Julian Barratt) having a cybernetic and bionic eye that only sees the truth. This is of course in the spoof 1980's television show of the same name and not his real life persona of "Richard Thorncroft" who following the cancellation of Mindhorn has fallen both from grace and indeed popular culture as he now sports a balding pate and substantial paunch and lives in a small London flat surrounded by Mindhorn memorabilia and memories of better days. Now a struggling out of work actor he receives a reprieve of sorts and an opportunity to reprise his obscurely famous role one more time as there is a serial killer on the loose on the Isle of Man "The Kestrel" (Russell Tovey) and unless he speaks with Mindhorn, and only Mindhorn, the killing spree will continue. Returning to the Isle of Man it's clear that Richard Thorncroft/Mindhorn is now a man completely out of his time and stagnated in a life that has passed him by in the 25 years since his television show ended. Aside from his comically terrible and repugnant Manager "Geoffrey Moncrieff" (Richard McCabe), everyone else he used to associate with in the late 1980's has gone on to bigger and better things, be it his long lost love "Patricia Deville" (Essie Davis) now a journalist on the local newspaper and married to Mindhorn's ex stuntman and double "Clive Parnevik" (Simon Farnaby). Much to Richard Thorncroft's ire "Windjammer" AKA "Peter Eastman" (Steve Coogan) has a highly successful and long running television show and living the high life as a local celebrity in spacious, opulent surroundings, and although assisting local Police officers "DC Baines" (Andrea Riseborough) and "Chief Inspector Newsome" (David Schofield) with the Kestrel case, Richard Thorncroft is clearly a man out of his depth as well as a man well and truly out of his time, reprising a spoof television detective from a generation ago.
"It's truth time" exclaims Mindhorn however it's his nemesis Windjammer who is probably nearer the actual truth with his own proclamation that he's "lost at life" and "living in a dream world". The truth on the film itself is that it is a mess at times and a little baggy but when the comedy chimes it does so with gusto and with tongue firmly in it's cheek. Mindhorn is a deliberately cheesy film of a cheesy spoof television series that if you take it to your heart is lovable, eminently quotable and a fun way of spending 90 minutes of your time. Kudos in particular should be paid to writer and co-star Simon Farnaby for his original idea, Director Sean Foley for an accomplished directorial debut in a somewhat experimental film and Suzie Harman for her ridiculous late 1980's costume designs. Last but by no means least are a gaggle of acting performances that really illuminate the film whether it's Julian Barratt as the titular hero Mindhorn, his co-writer Simon Farnaby and his ridiculous Austin Powers/Goldmember Dutch accent (I was expecting him to say "I'm from Holland, isn't that weird?" at any given moment!) through to the individually brilliant performances from Riseborough, Davis, Coogan and Tovey. In a film spoofing and riffing on a fictional 1980's television show there are countless in jokes, jibes and references to actors of the era, be it Sean Bean, John Nettles, Burt Reynolds or Peter Ustinov, plus there are cameos from Simon Callow and Kenneth Branagh both playing themselves, with Branagh in particular superb as a perplexed casting director who, on testing the now aged Richard Thorncroft simply has no idea who he is or indeed who he was. "Who was that?" enquires his casting colleague, "Not a fucking clue!" comes his barbed and hilarious retort.
Surely Mindhorn, a man who sees the truth through a Steve Austin style bionic eye deserves better than that!