There are roles that actors inhabit that stay with them for the whole of their career, no matter how far they try to break free. For Daniel Radcliffe, no farting corpse could blow away the spell of Harry Potter and Patrick Stewart will always be Picard. Iconic roles will always be beneficial in some ways and detrimental in others, and many will never see the success of their allusive performance.
As Richard Thorncroft is stuck in the shadow of Mindhorn, as is Julian Barrett in the role of Howard Moon, and his latest comedy has facets of the ill-fated zookeeper/artist/shopowner/”colon” explorer. But that doesn’t make the film anything less than entertaining.
Mindhorn revolves around Richard Thorncroft who, for a short time during the eighties, was a popular TV detective with a special eyepatch meaning he can only see the truth. Whilst successful in the Isle of Man, Thorncroft’s adventures to LA and London prove fruitless and, years later, he is a pretty destitute performer, failing audition after audition. When a serial killer runs amok on his home island, believing Mindhorn to be a real detective, Thorncroft is enlisted by the police to hunt him down – with Richard’s return providing some hilarious hi-jinks.
To be fair to Barrett, it may be that all his characters are iterations of himself, but he plays them all with such conviction that it is impossible not to love each and every one of them. As the hapless Thorncroft, his attempt at career resurgence after he has failed repeatedly is endearing in its second-hand embarrassment and hilarious as it all begins to unravel quite quickly in front of him. Believing himself a hero, Thorncroft’s return is met with more scoffs than celebration and it is Barrett’s ability to embody, completely, the loveable loser character that makes for a jubilant romp across the Isle of Man.
Mindhorn’s humour is reminiscent of the classic British caper but still feels fresh and humorous. Simon Farnaby and Julian Barrett have crafted a stupid crime comedy that never misses a beat. The jokes land thick and fast as the despairing lead tries to rejuvenate his career as well as the love of his old flame. Battered by time and the industry, he rolls hysterically across the town he once knew with quips, slapstick, and bizarre elements all combining for an onslaught of hilarity. Though the narrative is quite similar to what we’ve seen before, Farnaby and Barrett make it modern and, most importantly, funny.
Though not as bizarre as The Mighty Boosh, Mindhorn still steers in a special brand of comedy that will have your ribs hurting when you come out of it. You cannot help to endear to Barrett’s Mindhorn as well as the population of supporting actors trying to deal with his battered ego. The presence of Russell Tovey, Steve Coogan, and Patricia Davies, all each add an element of fun and as you slip into Thorncroft’s world.
If anything, the catchphrase “It’s Truth Time” will slip into your vernacular so easily, you’ll be wishing for an eyepatch and moustache.