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“The Brothers Grimsby” movie review

By Jeff Boudreaux

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     I have come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of fans in the wide world of comedy. Those who either love Sacha Baron Cohen, and the those who absolutely detest him. Well, I guess that puts me squarely into the first camp, because I firmly believe the man behind such characterizations as “Borat,” “Bruno,” “The Dictator,” and “Ali G” happens to transcend comedic boundaries and I consider myself to be an admirer of his brand of humor and I’m not inclined to apologize for that. What does separate “The Brothers Grimsby” from Cohen’s other starring vehicles is that it is his first effort where he shares the spotlight with someone else, that person being Mark Strong in what is essentially a one-shot collaborative comedy team. If ever there was a film that delivered so much more than a trailer would have you believe, this is it. The laughs are timely, unbelievably offensive and meant to shock your shocks off, and there’s no better person to do that than Cohen – quite possibly the most underrated comic genius in motion picture history.

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As the title suggests, this is the tale of two siblings – brothers who couldn’t have possibly gone in more differential directions in life. Sebastian (Mark Strong) is an elite MI6 operative who spends his days ridding the streets of terrorists, drug smugglers and all sorts of international criminals. By contrast, his brother Nobby (Cohen) is an incredibly stupid, flip-flop wearing, soccer-hooligan from the British town of Grimsby who has either never heard of condoms – or more likely, doesn’t like the feel of them – which is why he is the father to nearly a dozen kids! Now, while these two men are rightfully polar opposites, they were once inseparable and have unfortunately been detached since childhood. After one of Nobby’s pals from the local pub claims that he saw Sebastian around town (which is highly unusual because of the age progression!), he sets out to reunite with the man who (unbeknownst to him) is a secret agent.

 

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Tracking Sebastian to a world health conference overseen by humanitarian Rhonda George (Penélope Cruz), Nobby administers a well-intentioned, yet terribly untimely, surprise hug to his long-lost brother from behind, just as he’s intending to assassinate a terrorist with HIS sights set on George. Needless to say, a SNAFU to end all occurs and Sebastian is deemed rogue by his superior (screen veteran Ian McShane). After a “Welcome Home Secret Agent” party that can only be thrown in Grimsby, the brothers must take it on the lam while trying to prove Sebastian’s innocence and with a little help from his girlfriend (and MI6 intelligence officer) Jodie Figgis (Isla Fisher, Cohen’s real-life wife). As the brothers learn to rely on each other to survive, they also must make up for the past 28 years and become incredibly close once again (though in ways that even diehard fans of Cohen would be hard-pressed to envision!)

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Ok, here’s the deal. You will be shocked by this film. In fact, you may even be offended. You’ll probably never even look at Elephants in the same way ever again (sorry but that’s all I intend to say on that matter). However, there’s an awful good chance that this may be the funniest film you’ll happen to see this year – and it even has Donald Trump in it! How’s that for keeping abreast of current events? One thing is for certain, Cohen knows where to place his finger on America’s pulse. I also have to say that proverbial screen villain Mark Strong gets one of his most endearing roles – if you can call it that. Nevertheless, the two stars have good chemistry together which is essential for a film of this type – and yet you may never find another like it. “The Brothers Grimsby” also co-stars the increasingly popular Rebel Wilson as Dawn, Nobby’s girlfriend, and also features Gabourey Sidibe (“Precious”) and Annabelle Wallis (“Annabelle”) getting caught up in a case of mistaken identity that could only be propagated upon by an idiot the likes of Nobby.  

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Directed by the action-oriented auteur Louis Leterrier (“The Transporter,” “The Incredible Hulk”), “The Brothers Grimsby” will undoubtedly get some jeers from people with less-than receptive senses of humor, and it also may not find its audience due to an anemic advertising campaign. Yet, for the adventurous Cohen fan and for those who simply are inclined to enjoy “buddy cop” movies, I would recommend this as a very coarse diamond in the rough. The action sequences are top-notch, and if you happen to see a trailer for “Hardcore Henry,” Leterrier technically does the first-person shooter technique here…well first. And who knows, you may just wind up laughing more than you thought was even possible. I should know, I attended with someone who absolutely hates Cohen’s comedies, and needless to say if she was a contestant on the classic game show “Make me Laugh,” she would have lost – miserably.

**1/2 (two-and-a-half out of four stars)

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