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Shock for shock's sake - The Brothers Grimsby'

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Sacha Baron Cohen's latest a scatalogically-obsessed misfire

No one makes movies quite like Sacha Baron Cohen.

Characters drive Cohen's work bizarre, fringe-y, over-the-top characters that Cohen creates and then structures narratives around. Borat, Bruno, Ali G these weirdos were the centerpieces around which Cohen filled in the gaps to create his films.

And if there's one thing that can't be disputed, it is Cohen's pathological willingness to commit to the bit, no matter how weird and/or unpleasant it might be. He pushes boundaries it's the basic concept behind everything that he does.

But sometimes, it just doesn't work times like 'The Brothers Grimsby.'

Cohen plays Nobby, a drunken football hooligan living in the small town of Grimsby. He's got 11 kids and a penchant for making terrible decisions when inebriated (so always). His life's biggest regret is losing his younger brother, who has been missing for almost 30 years.

It turns out that that brother Sebastian (Mark Strong, 'Kingsman: The Secret Service') is an elite MI6 agent trying to take down a global crime syndicate. He's on the verge of tracking down his target when some unlikely circumstances lead to a reunion with Nobby. Of course, in the process, Sebastian's mission goes sideways and he himself stands accused, so he has to go on the run with Nobby by his side.

What follows is about what you'd expect. The two long-estranged brothers are quickly embroiled in a massive conspiracy and are forced to find ways to work together. As they make their way to the center of the mystery, they find themselves reconciling, because of course they do. Family is important and whatnot.

However, that synopsis doesn't really tell you what this movie IS. That foundational narrative flimsy as it is exists solely to hold up the constant stream of lunacy that is Sacha Baron Cohen's stock in trade.

'The Brothers Grimsby' revels in looking for ways to make itself off-putting. There's a gross-out ethos underneath it all that comes off as more juvenile than anything else. Lots of things going into and coming out of various orifices, that sort of deal.

(This could be viewed as a bit of a spoiler, but I can't help myself: the elephant scene (you'll know it when you see it) will haunt your nightmares.)

Don't get me wrong there's absolutely a place for that kind of stuff. As a teenaged boy at heart, I know that there's some fun to be had. And its presence alone wouldn't be a big deal, except that the film relies on the gross-out for laughs at the expense of actual jokes. Too often, this results in moments that are more cringe-inducing than anything else.

Of course, Cohen has some funny moments he's talented enough and committed enough to ensure the occasional hit but there's something oddly needy about his performance that ensures that things rarely click. To me, it's kind of mind-blowing that Mark Strong is involved in this at all I assume it's because Jason Statham wasn't available but he does his best with what he's been given. His refusal to phone it in seems admirable, if misguided.

It's a surprisingly talented supporting cast as well, with Penelope Cruz, Rebel Wilson, Ian McShane and Isla Fisher all making the questionable decision to come aboard. Unfortunately, that talent is gleefully wasted, with none of them being given anything of substance to do.

'The Brothers Grimsby' is Sacha Baron Cohen at his nadir; his shtick simply didn't work this time around. Pushing boundaries for the sake of pushing boundaries rarely does. A willingness to commit can be a wonderful thing, but it can backfire when the initial decision is a poor one something that occurs far, FAR too often here.


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