Sacha Baron Cohen pushes the boundaries of taste in this scatological tale of a blue-collar 

moron who discovers that his brother is an MI6 agent.

Sacha Baron Cohen is a very clever man. He read history at Cambridge and graduated with upper second class honours. His sense of humour, though, is a little less clear-cut.  He has proved his genius at subverting the comic norm with his small-screen incarnation of Ali G and his increasingly barrier-dismantling and decreasingly amusing films Borat, Brüno and The Dictator. Here, he takes on the mantle of a blue-collar English moron and dives head first into the well-trampled terrain of the spy spoof. After Austin Powers, Johnny English, last year’s Spy and this year’s Zoolander No. 2, among countless others, it’s a formula that needs to be retired. The gist is that Baron Cohen’s Nobby, the half-witted brother of one of MI6’s most prized agents (Mark Strong), bungles his sibling’s attempt to thwart an assassination plot. Instead, the assassin’s bullet misses its intended victim but shoots a child in a wheelchair. So the two go on the run and hide out in Lincolnshire.



The spy who gagged me: Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong


While spoofing James Bond and every other secret agent franchise, Baron Cohen – who dreamed up the idea, co-scripted and co-produced – has also attempted to attack political correctness head-on. He does this with the collaboration of director Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans), executive producer Adam McKay (nominated for an Oscar for directing The Big Short) and such thespian heavyweights as Ian McShane, the Oscar-winning Penélope Cruz and, in brief parts, the Oscar-nominated character actors Gabourey Sidibe and Barkhad Abdi. And with his commercial clout, Baron Cohen has opened up his story to include such exotic locales as Cape Town, Santiago, London and the eponymous Grimsby, a grotty town that certainly lives down to its name, at least in this film.


But Baron Cohen’s comic thrust is not so much cutting-edge as cruel and sick. Nothing is beneath him and his obsession with anal cavities, human waste, elephantine vaginas, naked fat people, industrial quantities of ejaculate and casual carnage is psychotic. For the benefit of the low groan, he draws on Aids, leukaemia, terrorism, biological warfare, heroin addiction, the working class and Daniel Radcliffe. A dig at Bill Cosby is below the belt, although a last-minute jibe at Donald Trump prompts a two-second smile. The scatologically inclined might eat this up, if the manic editing, maudlin flashbacks and relentless score don’t put them off. Personally, it made me ashamed to be British.




Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Penélope Cruz, Annabelle Wallis, Gabourey Sidibe, Ian McShane, Tamsin Egerton, David Harewood, Ricky Tomlinson, Johnny Vegas, Sam Hazeldine, Scott Adkins, Barkhad Abdi.


Dir Louis Leterrier, Pro Sacha Baron Cohen and Nira Park, Screenplay Sacha Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston and Peter Baynham, Ph Oliver Wood, Pro Des Kave Quinn, Ed Jonathan Amos, Evan Henke and James Thomas, Music Erran Baron Cohen and David Buckley, Costumes Paco Delgado.


Big Talk Productions/Four by Two Films/LStar Capital/Village Roadshow Pictures/Working Title Films-Sony Pictures.

83 mins. 2016. UK/USA. Rel: 24 February 2016. Cert. 15.