Review: The Brothers Grimsby

PLOT: When a wildly inept football hooligan discovers that his long lost brother is a spy, he attempts to reconnect. In the process, he ends up risking both of their lives as they try to track down a deadly villain.

REVIEW: Only a couple of months back, I lambasted the gross out comedy DIRTY GRANDPA. Yet, it had little to do with it being offensive or crude. It had far more to do with it being completely unfunny. And now we have a new feature from Sacha Baron Cohen, one that makes the Zac Efron and Robert De Niro flick seem tame in comparison. THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY is loaded with jokes that will have you feeling very dirty for watching it. They range from a very disturbing elephant sex sequence to a couple of very famous names contracting A.I.D.S. – and how they get it is even more awful. This is a messed up film that clearly has no interest in being PC in any way, shape or form. The difference is, this time several of the jokes are actually pretty damn hysterical.

THE BROTHER GRIMSBY tells the tale of a football hooligan named Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen). This father of ten (or so) children lives a wild life going to games and hanging with his pals at the local pub – as well as having sex with his gal pal Dawn Grobham played by Rebel Wilson. Yet he has a deep longing to reunite with his long lost brother. Separated at a young age, Nobby soon discovers that his sibling Sebastian (Mark Strong) will be at a fancy event. After snagging a ticket, he shows up and discovers that his little brother is now a secret agent. When Nobby accidentally exposes his brother, the two find themselves having to work together to stay alive. Unfortunately for Sebastian, big brother tends to keep messing things up and constantly puts the two in jeopardy.

The one thing that originally had me interested in this action comedy was the pairing of Mark Strong and Sacha Baron Cohen. You couldn’t think of two more unlikely co-stars – unless you count Melissa McCarthy and Jason Statham in wonderfully enjoyable SPY. Either way, as capable as Cohen is at comedy, Strong is an exceptionally believable action star. And while funny man Sacha is able to pull off the physical aspects of the film well enough, Strong is equally as good at the more humorous material. While much of this is downright moronic – and that’s not necessarily an insult – the two actors are quite entertaining to watch.

The script co-written by Cohen, Phil Johnston and Peter Baynham is brutally vicious at times. Many of the jokes are so graphic and mean-spirited, if you are the sensitive sort you will want this just over hour-and-twenty minutes to end as soon as it begins. And while the filmmakers not only push the envelope hard, they manage to create a little bit of a sweet spot with the backstory of the two brothers. Many of the jokes are unforgettably riotous, but not every single one works. However, it certainly had the audience I was with laughing heartily. One sequence involving Nobby discovering firearms is likely to offend many, and it will inspire horrific glee in others.

The mix of comedy and action here is generally successful – maybe moderately. When we first meet Sebastian, he is on fire as he rips into the bad guys. Director Louis Leterrier (THE INCREDIBLE HULK, NOW YOU SEE ME) creates an impressive introduction to the character, and just how dangerous he can be. Still, the POV kills become a tad tedious, even if it sort of works in the context of what is happening. We see much of the violence courtesy of specialized contacts, so there is a shooter video game feel to a few of the kills. While this sounds a bit frustrating to watch, it can work better than you may expect.

One of the biggest issues is the villain, and I won’t give it away here – if you watch the trailer it tells you more than it should. Besides being predictable, the reveal is obvious and weak. The reasons for the final horrendous deeds they have planned are uninspired, and the last battle is over before it begins. The plot revolves around a spy taking care of evil doers, but ultimately it is all about the two brothers and their family of nitwits. And while Nobby is actually sort of awful, there is a strangely charming quality that he and his hooligan friends have. This is a ridiculously short comedy that aims for low brow humor with the occasional tug on the heartstrings. It’s not great but some of it is insanely inspired.

THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY might not be Sacha Baron Cohen’s best work, but it will likely make you laugh. Those in the mood for a little moronic fun will chuckle heartily. The pairing of Strong and Cohen is the best reason to sit back and take it all in. So much of it is near cringeworthy, yet when it works you’ll have a tough time not cracking up. There are about three or four scenes that are just awful, but you’ll be smiling throughout. While I’m not sure this is worthy of checking out on the big screen, it's certainly fun to sit down with an audience looking for dumb delights.

Review: The Brothers Grimsby




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JimmyO is one of’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.