Remember hirsute 80s detectives in pleather, with simpering ‘dolly bird’ sidekicks, cheap edits and really shit stunts? So do Sean Foley, Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby, director and co-creators, respectively, of this batshit but inspired Brit comedy. Barratt plays Richard Thorncroft, a faded star clinging to the glory days of perennially fromagey sleuth show Mindhorn: part Jason King; part Magnum- a role it seems, from which he will never escape.To make matters worse, his long-lost flame and small screen ladyfriend Patricia Deville (Essie Davis) now a successful journalist, has taken up with his rival, the ridiculously egotistical stuntman Clive (Farnaby) who thinks nothing of parading around their estate in tiny shorts showing off a gym-honed physique.
What’s a thesp to do? Until possible redemption comes in the unlikely form of a delusional serial killer (Russell Tovey) who believes that Bruce Mindhorn is real. One last jaunt to the Isle of Man to solve crime and revive a flagging career? Can do. Of course, there are parallels to be drawn here with the pathetic has-been Alan Partridge (Coogan himself pops up here as ex-actor Peter, cagoule enthusiast and millionaire ) and the banal details of Edgar Wright’s finest work.
Yet, a wonderfully demented Barratt, campy Farnaby and the superb supporting cast clearly have a love of the genre even as they lampoon it. The visual gags are spot-on every time.Simon Callow and Kenneth Branagh’s cameo in-jokes really work- in lesser hands, they may have seemed glib or smug. Meanwhile, Thorncroft’s uninhibited audition for an inappropriate role is so cringeworthy, I watch through my fingers.
There are nods to Oliver Reed’s drunken shenanigans on chat shows, the naff ephemera that spun from detective series (jigsaws, talking dolls and ‘truth powder’, whatever that is) and an emphasis on witty, impossibly glamorous women (Davis is an outspoken, witty foil) who were as underused in side roles as Thorncroft’s Equity card.
Above all, though, there is almost a bizarre pang of nostalgia for BMX bikes frenetically parked outside houses at teatime, as the whole family sat down together to watch apalling, unresolved storylines with overacting in tan polo necks, jaws dropping as Findus crispy pancakes remained unmunched.Such innocent times.
Mindhorn does this, and much, much more.’Let the Benedict Cumberbatch backlash begin!’ You can’t Handcuff the Wind, you know. ‘There’s gonna be an apocalypse… of justice’.