Mindhorn is one of those movies that only works for viewers who are open to it. As a person who is very open to the sense of humor on display here, I found Mindhorn to be one of the most boldly original movies to grace screens thus far in 2017. And it doesn't hurt that the movie comes from one half of the mastermind team behind The Mighty Boosh.
The premise of this film is very much of its time. First off, you must know that Mindhorn is a comedy. However, the comedy isn't as overt as you might expect or hope. As a result, there are going to be people that simply will not get this film. I liken it to the people that love Seinfeld but just don't get Curb Your Enthusiasm. It is essentially the same with Mindhorn. If you love Seinfeld, this film may not be for you. If you love Curb Your Enthusiasm, and other shows that laugh at the cathedrals of pop culture, then you will be laughing on your love seat as you watch Mindhorn.
A serial killer is on the loose. The police are desperately trying to catch him. They run into a major problem when the killer says that he will only talk to Detective Mindhorn. The problem is that Detective Mindhorn is a fictional character from a 1980s TV series of the same name. He is played with full bluster by actor Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt). Thorncroft is a thespian who has fallen on hard times (what actor hasn't?) so he decides to help the police try and nab their bad guy. Not out of any great love for law and order, Thorncroft is convinced by his agent that this will be a good PR move. He'll get his name back in the entertainment media. People will start talking about him again. Basically, the idea is for Thorncroft to use a killing spree to bolster his sagging career.
As you can guess, nothing goes as expected and Thorncroft soon finds himself involved in legitimate police work. Suddenly, he becomes the character he played 25 years before, only it is in real life with real cases of murder happening around him. Basically, take Se7en and merge it with Maxwell Smart and you have Mindhorn. From Mindhorn's unique skill at drawing his perps out of hiding, to his ability to always be at the wrong place at the wrong time, the real life Mindhorn seems to solve problems more in-spite of his skills than because of them. And that is what makes Mindhorn such an engaging film to watch. Whether he is being turned down for an acting role, or using his fake detective mindset to solve a case, you can't help but root for him. Even when he uses the fact that he's "working" on a case to woo former co-star Patricia Deville (Essie Davis), it's very hard not to wish Mindhorn some form of success.
Truly the standout in Mindhorn is Julian Barratt. He is so pitch perfect as this character. None of his scenes ever feel forced or trying to be funny. For him, Mindhorn is a character that appears effortless to play. When Mindhorn is told that he needs to stay "in character at all times," that seems like as much a directive for Barratt as it is for Thorncroft.
However, the rest of the cast deserves to have their praises sung as well. Steve Coogan as rival actor Peter Eastman is awesome. Sometimes he plays the subtext in other movies a little too close to the vest. Here, he is right in the pocket and exactly where he needs to be. There's also the fun cameos like Kenneth Branagh and Simon Callow playing themselves. While Mindhorn isn't a mock documentary, this film really spares no expense at sending up actors, their self-importance, and the film industry as a whole. Another standout in the cast is Clive Parnevik (Simon Farnaby). He is currently with Mindhorn's ex-Patricia Deville. Farnaby steals every scene he's in by playing the new husband who loves reminding Mindhorn he's not with his wife. The fact that he was also Mindhorn's former stand-in just adds to the hilarity of their time on screen.
Netflix is known for being bold and brash. They are known for bringing projects to the masses that other studios or companies can't or won't touch. As a result, we are getting films that we have never have gotten before. Sure, we've seen movies like Mindhorn, but we've never seen Mindhorn the movie. This film is always pushing the limits of comedy, reality and humor. It is also the kind of film that is imminently re-watchable which is exactly what Netflix is counting on.