It’s all business as usual. I go to the theater and pass the eager crowd of people anxiously waiting to go in to see the film. I remember their innocent smiles, naive laughter and the luminescent hope in their eyes while I waited to get my popcorn and drink. The movie came, and like a devastating natural disaster, it left with the audience amidst the wreckage. By the end of the film, my popcorn remained untouched, in part out of disgust, but mostly because my mouth was stuck in a perpetual state of ajar out of the disbelief of what I had just seen. I was parched, both mentally and physically, but no amount of water could satiate me, or make me feel clean for that matter. This ravaging of the sense gripped all of us. It was like we were all part of an orgy that had gone very, very awry. No one could summon the courage to even make eye contact as we slumped out of the theater like brain-dead zombies starved for intellectual stimulation. This was The Brothers Grimsby.
The next-level low brow humor in The Brothers Grimsby makes Adam Sandler’s worst film look like a Stanley Kubrick production. That is not to say the film is without its clever moments, but a couple good apples can’t save this barrel of rotting fruit. A good Harry Potter joke, a clever Grindr reference, a Donald Trump burn and an Ace Ventura homage are nowhere near enough to compensate for the other 80 minutes of aggressive dribble you have to sit through. I have absolutely no problem with effective, irreverent humor, but when offensive jokes serve no higher purpose than to shock people into an uncomfortable laughter, then they aren’t worth telling let alone hearing.
The theater should have been considerate enough to provide oxygen masks for how often the audience gasped rather than laughed. Much of the laughter that did manage to come out was done out of shock or as a reflexive result from the relief that the scene was over. With such unconsenting cameos as Daniel Radcliffe and Donald Trump, there is little to laugh at. There isn’t a single victim left standing when the jokes involve people suffering from and accidentally transmitting HIV/AIDS, pedophilia, rape, homophobia, incest, bestiality, committing fraud by pretending to be a cancer victim and fat-shaming. With these subject matters as part of the jokes, it felt like this film intentionally went out of its way to not be funny, or create the perfect anti-comedy.
Action director Louis Leterrier (Transporter, Unleashed) is mildly one of the only assets to this film. The choreography of the action sequences is the only guilt-free entertainment to be had in this entire shit show. During confrontations, the camera switches from third-person to first-person, giving it a brief video game/virtual reality aspect that is fun while it lasts. How this script took three writers, one of which being Baron Cohen, feels like the biggest joke in the film. Also like the jokes in the film, the amount of writers feels like overkill for such rudimentary approach to a spy genre film. The ridiculous logic and ludicrous events in this film are so bad that they beat out fellow spy comedy dud Zoolander 2.
No one is safe from The Brothers Grimsby. Not the audience, not the producers, and especially not the actors. The audacious material overshadows even the best performances in this film. Every character is forgettable. Penelope Cruz and Mark Strong are marginally the only standouts in the film, but they would have been better off just staying in their other spy film universes of Kingsman and, yes, even Zoolander 2. Sacha Baron Cohen plays an amalgam of every character of his we’ve seen, combining elements and even physical gags from them to try to deceive us into thinking he’s created something new. We’re nowhere near as dumb as he assumes we are, especially when it comes to Baron Cohen thinking we won’t recognize The Brothers Grimsby as the inferior spy-themed, film rip-off of the hit UK show Shameless.
Once upon a time, Sacha Baron Cohen used his satire and edgy comedy to draw parallels to politics and society. Characters like Borat, Bruno and even Ali G made a statement about the world by exploiting cultural flaws. It was easy to forgive his apparent flaws when he was trying to champion social causes. The only thing that even comes close to a social commentary in The Brothers Grimsby is a loosely put together nod to class inequality. Even then, the film comes off more as a PSA for the resilience of the human anus than as a comment on the world’s imbalanced class system. For a film that is surprisingly so much about assholes (the body part and the people), it’s no surprise The Brothers Grimsby is one itself.
Rating: ★ (1/10 stars)