mon 26/10/2020

Mindhorn review - Eighties detective spoof is a hoot | reviews, news & interviews

Mindhorn review - Eighties detective spoof is a hoot

Mindhorn review - Eighties detective spoof is a hoot

Julian Barratt dons blouson and eyepatch to bust crime and make fun of washed-up TV stars

To appreciate the full engaging silliness of Mindhorn, it helps to have been born no later than 1980. Those of the requisite vintage will have encountered the lame primetime pap it both salutes and satirises. Everyone else coming to this spoof will just have to take it on trust that things, admittedly not all of them British, were indeed this bad back in the day.

The eponymous detective of the adventure crime show wears a brown leather blouson, grey leather slip-ons and an eyepatch that allows him to see the truth. He’s a hot smoothie who hunts down bad guys alone, principally on the Isle of Man, with the help of a fast soft-top and some arthritic moves from the martial arts playbook. But that was the Eighties and now Richard Thorncroft, the actor who played him, is a balding tub of lard in a bedsit reduced to earning a crust endorsing surgical supports for the elderly. His agent has no work for him. He gets summoned to an audition to play a yardie as a result of a clerical error. Kenneth Branagh, one of several A listers recruited to play himself, is underwhelmed.

TMindhornhen a murder is committed on Detective Mindhorn’s old stomping ground and there’s only one person the presumed culprit (Russell Tovey) will communicate with. Thorncroft imagines this is an opportunity that can put him back in the game. Cue a frantic caper which mimics precisely the kind of naff storylines Mindhorn got mixed up in all those decades ago.

The pleasure of this low-budget British comedy is very much centred on the charming, buffoonish performance of Julian Barratt, the funny one from The Mighty Boosh, as a washed-up old ham whose ego has somehow kept his estimation of himself intact. (See also Bill Nighy in Their Finest.) There is almost no delusion which doesn’t have Thorncroft in its grip. Chief among these is that his old lover and co-star Patricia Deville (Essie Davis) still has the hots for him. Humiliatingly she has married Thorncroft’s thinner Dutch stuntman Clive (played by Barrett’s co-scriptwriter Simon Farnaby, pictured above).

MindhornLoitering on the fringes are Andrea Riseborough as a policewoman, Nicholas Farrell as a villainous civic leader, Richard McCabe as a hollowed-out cokehead in a caravan, and Steve Coogan (looking freakishly thin and ripped) as Thorncroft’s creepy old supporting player. Mindhorn is directed by Sean Foley, tacking across from stage comedy and bringing in pals like Branagh to lighten up and have a good time.

There are fun setpieces including a crap parade with a real shoot-out, plus some lovely lines too. Harriet Walter, ditching Thorncroft as her client, has a killer putdown which she administers over the phone: “I’ve left your headshots in reception.” It won’t win many awards or break many box office records, but Mindhorn doesn’t outstay its welcome and approaches the important business of spoofery with a practically academic attention to ridiculous detail. A hoot.


Overleaf: watch the trailer to Mindhorn


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article


It would have been a hoot if it was a 90 second sketch. Mindhorn was lazy and saggy,

Add comment


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters