11th Sep2017

‘Mindhorn’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Julian Barratt, Simon Farnaby, Essie Davis, Russell Tovey, Andrea Riseborough, Jessica Barden, Harriet Walter, Steve Coogan | Written by Julian Barratt, Simon Farnaby | Directed by Sean Foley


Washed-up Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt) peaked with hit 1980s detective show ‘Mindhorn’, playing the titular Isle of Man sleuth with a robotic eye that allowed him to literally “see the truth”. Decades later, when a deranged Manx criminal demands Mindhorn as his nemesis, Thorncroft returns to the scene of his greatest triumphs for one last chance to reignite his glory days, professional credibility and even romance with former co-star/paramour Patricia Deville (Essie Davis).

The idea of fans blurring the line between fiction and reality has been used numerous times in cinema, the latest example of which – Mindhorn – is a very British take on the idea: at once both spoofing and homaging the likes of 70s and 80s TV shows such as Bergerac, The Saint and The Professionals. In fact Mindhorn, the TV character, is like a souped-up version of John Nettles’ Bergerac – made bionic a la The Six Million Dollar Man himself, Steve Austin. By contrast the actor who plays him, Richard Thorncroft, is an unlikeable dimwit of a man, who behaviour does nothing to generate any empathy – meaning there’s never any emotional connection with the film, leaving only the laughs to help carry the story.

Sadly the comedy lapses into the kinds of ridiculous cheesiness that Alan Partridge revelled in… and that’s the thing, Mindhorn is like watching a cinematic version of a spoof TV show that actually never existed rather than a humourous play on tropes of the British detective genre. For all intents and purposes Mindhorn feels like a TV production rather than a big-screen feature – a one-note joke stretched out way beyond the point in which it remains funny. Again, like the Alan Partridge movie.

There’s a conspiracy theory sub-plot about a murder on the Isle of Man but that does nothing to drive the film forward for the majority of it’s running time, instead merely acting as a vehicle for Mindhorn/Richard Thorncroft to get up to more ridiculousness (which gets increasingly unwatchably bad the longer the film goes on… and on… and on) and to allow Russell Tovey a chance to throw caution to the wind as “framed for a crime he didn’t commit” criminal, The Kestrel. So what’s left? The 80s retro vibe..? Sadly even that can’t save this film from itself.

Interestingly, it turns out the extras on the Mindhorn DVD, in particular the Richard Thorncroft interview and spoof music video ‘You can’t Handcuff the Wind,’ actually make for more fun and enjoyable material that the film itself! The rest of the extras include an audio commentary with Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby; a Mindhorn featurette; and the Clive Parnevik stunt master-class, in ‘the mind of Mindhorn.’

Mindhorn is available on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download now.


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