Sacha Baron Cohen's new comedy brings the raunch — but the sharp satire is M.I.A.
If you hide inside an elephant’s vagina, the boy elephant who’s fucking her is likely to splooge all over you. For that and other bits of carnal comic knowledge, thank Sacha Baron Cohen. The Cambridge-educated creator of Ali G, Borat and Brüno has never ducked bodily fluids. Not if they’re used with intent to diss a hypocritical culture. Cohen is as raunchy as ever in The Brothers Grimsby. It’s the strafing satire that’s MIA.
Cohen, who co-wrote the script, isn’t doing his usual mockumentary, where he catches people in the act of exposing their prejudices. Grimsby is straight-up narrative. Cohen plays Nobby Butcher, a football-loving wanker from dead-end Grimsby, where he lives in clueless squalor with his wife (Rebel Wilson) and their 11 kids. He keeps a room for Sebastian (Mark Strong), the brother he hasn’t seen since Mum and Da died 28 years ago. It turns out that Sebastian is now an MI6 agent doing his 007 thing.
The bros reunite with way-too-predictable results. Directed with energy but little spirit by Louis Leterrier (The Transporter), Grimsby is a lame piece of funny business, bloated with frantic action and rectal violation. To save his brother, will Nobby suck poison out of Sebastian’s ball sack? Rhetorical question.
Soon, Nobby is outdoing his brother in the action department. In South Africa, they unite against a viral terrorist group led by Rhonda George (Penélope Cruz), who plans her most lethal attack at the World Cup final in Chile. Cohen and Strong, so great onstage in A View From the Bridge, have a lively chemistry when Leterrier doesn’t douse it with sentimental drool. You get that sinking feeling when you realize that gross is all there is to Grimsby. The comic sting that set Cohen apart got lost somewhere. Maybe in that elephant’s vagina.