Sasha Baron Cohen’s latest film, Brothers Grimsby, tells the story of his character, Nobby, finding his brother, Sebastian (played by Mark Strong), after nearly three decades. Upon discovering that Strong’s character is a spy (and sabotaging his mission), Cohen’s character joins his brother to stop the typical evil plan while also clearing his name. What follows is possibly the most offensive, disgusting, racially insensitive, piece of gross-out humour in Cohen’s career, and when considering his past films, that is quite an achievement.
The plot is standard along the lines of a typical spy-comedy, with the “average Joe” of Nobby being roped into a convoluted plot to kill billions of people for a pretty base reason, a plot-twist of someone turning out to be evil which the audience can see a mile away, the lead’s partner (Strong) being an experienced spy and reluctant to accept him but grows to love him, and the ridiculous way that the lead is able to save the day. One of the things this film does differently to other spy comedies is having the lead (Cohen) being a confident football-hooligan rather than the typical nerdy-type, and also having him married with kids as opposed to having a love-interest within the agency.
The backstory of Cohen and Strong’s characters is actually really sad. If the rest of the film weren’t there, the flashbacks to when they were children would have definitely been a depressing award-winning drama. Not to mention that the kids playing them were actually quite skilled actors despite their age. When I first watched the trailer, I thought that Cohen had branched out into a serious drama, but upon seeing the trailer actually show the plot (and Strong asking Cohen to “suck the poison out”), I realized that I had been fooled. In all seriousness, if Cohen actually decided to make a dramatic film, he could do very well.
Naturally, one must discuss the gross-out humour that fills the film literally from beginning to end. The jokes seem to be based on three main elements; terminal illness, neglecting and abusing children, and the incredible amount of sex and “fluid” jokes. There are some exceptions to this rule, but Grimsby stays along those three main topics. These jokes destroy what little character substance the childhood flashbacks had, and can only be defined as “evil”. At the same time, however, they also had me laughing to tears. Perhaps because all comedy has to offend someone somewhere, so maybe Cohen decided to simply go all-out on what major films can and can’t make fun of and simply offend all walks of life.
This film is one of the funniest, laugh-out-loud comedies I have seen in cinemas in a long time, while at the same time being one of the dumbest below-the-belt gross-exploitation comedies in years.