By Christian DiMartino
I’d watch Sacha Baron Cohen in anything. Yes, he’s a sick bastard, but he’s one of the ballsiest, funniest, and boldest comics we have today. He makes shock value work… Almost every time.
There comes a scene halfway through his latest film, The Brothers Grimsby, that is so horrendously disgusting, I considered putting it on my worst of the year list. Again, this is the man behind Borat and Bruno, so why did I expect any different? Those films had shock value, yes, but it worked like a charm. The Brothers Grimsby also has shock value, and sometimes it works. But then again, once you have elephant masturbation, you know you’re swimming in Love Guru territory.
Cohen plays Nobby, a British father of 11, who resides in Grimsby with his wife (Rebel Wilson). He’s long searched for his younger brother, Sebastian (Mark Strong), since the two were separated during childhood. Turns out, Sebastian is now a spy. Who knew?
Nobby, being the goofy lad he is, finds Sebastian… And it doesn’t go over well. Next thing you know, Sebastian is considered an enemy, and soon the two are on the run. Isla Fisher, Penelope Cruz, Gabourey Sidebe, and Barkhad Abdi show up, but they really don’t get anything to do. They’re just there.
There’s flashback sequences, showing the brothers when they’re younger. They don’t work. Are they meant to provide depth? To me they felt out of place. Sentimentality makes Cohen a dull boy.
I also didn’t really care about the story, though director Louis Leterrier (Now You See Me) provides a decent amount of energy. But one doesn’t go to a Cohen film for story: you go for laughs. And yes, there are some good ones here. In fact, when that elephant sequence arrived, I told myself to find a happy place, and that happy place was the funny parts of this film. You have to be willing to be shocked.
Yes, Cohen pushes the shock value a little too far this time. But some lines do stick, even if you don’t want them to. You also can’t help but admire the performances from Cohen and Strong. Sure, Cohen co-wrote this material, but it takes a lot of determination to say some of this stuff with a straight face.
I can’t be harsh towards Cohen. Well actually I can, because I do whatever I want. Sure, The Brothers Grimsby is something of a misfire. But hey, Cohen has made funny films, and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t make more.