He plays Nobby, a degenerate thug from the underprivileged town of Grimsby who has spent twenty-eight years searching for his long lost brother Sebastian (Strong). When the moment of reunion arrives he discovers that Sebastian is a top-secret M16 agent and he suddenly finds himself caught up in a high-stakes game of survival as his brother races against time to prove his innocence in the assassination of an influential world-figure.
With the story established the rest of the film is a non-stop slathering of potty humour where nothing is off limits. From children with filthy mouthes to sexually explicit... um.... “scenarios” (which are best left out of this review and saved for your own discovery). And then there's the edgy stuff... from the spread of aids to the sexual exploitation of children. On paper the material seems untouchable and yet within the satirical context of the film it works so well. Cohen and Strong commit 100% to the comedy and delivery what is easily the most outrageous film of the year thus far.
Cohen's days of assuming characters and infiltrating the unsuspecting public are over. ALI-G, BORAT and BRUNO were amazing alter-egos that exposed people's ignorance and prejudices, but they ran their course when the world fell in love with them. Cohen's next character was Admiral General Aladeen in THE DICTATOR. The film ditched the mockumentary format of the previous ones and went for a fully established narrative, and while it incorporated moments of improvisation it failed to recapture the impact of those previous personas. And so GRIMSBY is Cohen's redemption. The film is infinitely better than THE DICTATOR and settles for a fully scripted, high-concept action comedy format.
It follows in the footsteps of last year's brilliant KINGSMAN (which also starred Mark Strong) and equals much of that film's action. In fact GRIMSBY is surprisingly stylish and well handled. Director Louis Leterrier brought his action-skills to the project, following his impressive work on THE TRANSPORTER, UNLEASHED and THE INCREDIBLE HULK, and proves to be proficient with the comedy too. His action is fast-paced and gritty, while incorporating Cohen's absurdist humour, and the two blend together well for the most part. With that said, there are times when the comedy does feel forced, and had it been less gratuitous in parts, the narrative would have been a much more cohesive – and ultimately stunning – comedy. Ten minutes shaved from this sucker would have made a world of difference.
Nevertheless GRIMSBY is laugh-out-loud funny. It is vulgar, explicit and puerile... but it is also hilarious, exciting and surprisingly cinematic. Cohen fans will love it, though I suspect that average movie-goers will be divided. As far as I'm concerned Cohen can keep pushing that envelope for as long as he's got push left in him.