The Brothers Grimsby

Posted by Joel Copling on March 10, 2016

If movies could feel emotion, "The Brothers Grimsby" would hate you. It would also, judging by the number of times the condition is used as the mysterious punch line to a joke, wish upon you the contraction of AIDS as it shouts homophobic remarks toward you on the street. I don't use such sentiments lightly: This film engenders a spite-filled hatred toward its audience members that is nearly unprecedented. Here is a movie that begins with the illicit sexual abuse of women by a once-popular actor and comedian as the punch line of a joke that also highlights gay musical icons as "not quite being" the ladies' men our sibling protagonists thought they were and ends with the current Republican Presidential frontrunner contracting the aforementioned autoimmune disease from the star of a popular fantasy series. And by comparison to what bridges the gap between these gags, those are positively tame.

The screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Peter Baynham, and Phil Johnston is not saddled with a cute kind of "mean streak" that comes with quotations denoting its underlying playfulness, either. This is truly despicable work. Baron Cohen also co-stars as one of those siblings, Nobby, who has not seen his brother in nearly three decades. He hasn't given up hope, retaining his brother's old room that they shared, complete with bunk beds and sports paraphernalia. He has several kids (and one grandchild from his underage daughter, ha ha) with Dawn (Rebel Wilson) and an obsession with European football that ranks just above everything else in his life on the importance scale.

Well, except for the prospect of being reunited with Sebastian (Mark Strong), who, it turns out, is a spy for MI6 and currently on a mission to prevent the assassination of Rhonda George (Penelope Cruz), a humanitarian and popular actress who is holding an event to be attended by the aforementioned popular wizarding-world star, the president of the World Health Organization, and a wheelchair-bound boy who is now a symbol of peace in the Middle East. The assassination attempt goes awry when another target altogether is killed and when Nobby hugs Sebastian, causing the bullet meant for the assassination device to hit the boy, whose blood (which is tainted with--you guessed it--AIDS, hee hee) hits the actor (Sebastian's observation regarding the actor's character's lifelong nemesis is the only truly clever joke in the whole film).

Sebastian's higher-ups, feeling that he irretrievably demolished the whole plan, put a kill order on him (although he is able to receive help from another agent played by Isla Fisher). This leads to an extended and endless series of scatological, homophobic, and downright insidious attempts at humor. The first of those varieties is highlighted by an extended scene of literally elephantine copulation that might have inspired a shocked scoff or giggle if it didn't then turn into a party involving multiple elephants. The second is highlighted by a scene in which Sebastian, who has been shot in the scrotum with a poisonous dart, must ask Nobby to suck the poison out (ho ho). This, again, could have inspired the shock-value humor for which the film was going, but then it has to go and frame the act as incest-spiked gay panic humor.

It is the third variety that truly makes the film incorrigible. Faced with no other alternative, Nobby discovers as the climax of the film approaches that he is quite adept at the gun-wielding talents of his little brother. Not only that, though: He enjoys it. "It completely detaches you from the guilt of your actions," he exclaims, and indeed, that climax includes a cold-blooded murder for gain on his part (once again, framed here by director Louis Leterrier, who otherwise botches every action sequence by making it nearly impossible to follow with the occasional first-person gimmickry, as the punch line to some sort of joke). "The Brothers Grimsby" is a worthless thing.

Film Information

Sacha Baron Cohen (Nobby), Mark Strong (Sebastian), Rebel Wilson (Dawn), Penelope Cruz (Rhonda George), Isla Fisher (Jodie), Barkhad Abdi (Tabansi Nyagura), Gabourey Sidibe (Banu).

Directed by Louis Leterrier and written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Peter Baynham, and Phil Johnston.

Rated R (crude sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, language, drug use).

83 minutes.

Released on March 11, 2016.