In the 80s, Richard Thorncroft was Mindhorn, a TV detective with an eye patch that literally ‘saw’ the truth. Today, he is an overweight, out of work actor desperate for a comeback. He gets his chance when a deranged criminal takes hostages on the Isle of Man (where the show is set), and the faded star uses the situation to orchestrate a ridiculous PR stunt and settle some old scores.
While there is more than a whiff of the Alan Partridge Movie about the set up (an aging buffoon thrown into the centre of a hostage situation), Mindhorn is still its own beast.
An affectionate ribbing of old cop shows and faded celebrity, the plot isn’t what makes this film funny – it’s how Barratt’s bloated has-been mishandles any given situation. In an excruciating audition, Thorncroft affects a Jamaican accent in front of an appalled Kenneth Branagh, calling him “B-Man! The Killer B!”, in a typically cringe-inducing, yet hilarious, moment.
Even though there’s a vast cast to compete with, Barratt runs the show. He gives a broad, bombastic performance that benefits from the excellent Simon Farnaby as Thorncroft’s former stuntman, and Steve Coogan as his more successful co-star. But our turtle-necked protagonist is so dominant that there are a couple of inevitable casualties; Andrea Riseborough is wasted as the cop charged with reining our hero in, as is Russell Tovey as the villain.
Though the plot runs out steam in the final act, Mindhorn’s gags are funny enough to just about get it over the line.
Thanks to a snappy script and a committed lead, this turns out to be one of the most intelligent, entertaining comedies of the year. And with the right script, this comeback king could even be in with a sequel.