Mindhorn: A potty-mouthed escape from dreary reality

Seeing the truth is easy when you have robotic vision in director Sean Foley's loopy lark based around a fictitious 1980s TV detective show - catchphrase "It's truth time!" - best described as The Six Million Dollar Man meets Bergerac on the Isle of Man.

Tuesday, 2nd May 2017, 3:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 8:19 pm
Julian Barratt (left)
Julian Barratt (left)

Scripted by actors Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby, who nab two of the showiest roles, Mindhorn hits more targets than it misses with its delightfully daft cocktail of spoof, slapstick and whodunnit.

The search for a hospital outpatient, who is suspected of murder, quickly takes a back seat to the pratfalls including flashes of old-fashioned physical humour like the lead actor chasing after a suspect and awkwardly clambering over a garden gate as it swings open beneath him.

Extended cameos from Kenneth Branagh and Simon Callow, gleefully poking fun at their theatrical luvviness, deliver hearty laughs as the titular sleuth goes to squirm-inducing lengths to regain his poster boy status, albeit with a pot belly and a hairline that has receded down his back.

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Julian Barratt

In the late 1980s, actor Richard Thorncroft (Barratt) set a nation's heart aflutter as Mindhorn, who could literally "see the truth" using his one robotic eye.

Twenty-five years later, fame has cruelly deserted him.

Richard is overweight, gloriously self-deluded and has to beg his long-suffering agent (Harriet Walter) for unedifying work.

Out of the blue, she offers him a chance at redemption: return to the Isle of Man, where the TV series was filmed, to assist Chief Inspector Derek Newsome (David Schofield) in apprehending suspected serial killer, Paul Melly (Russell Tovey).

Julian Barratt

Melly is a deluded fan of the TV series and tells police he will "only speak to Inspector Mindhorn or more people are going to die!"

Consequently, Richard travels to his former stomping ground to work closely alongside DC Baines (Andrea Riseborough) on the high-profile case.

"Stay in character at all times," she reminds Richard.

"When I go in, I go deep," he counters saucily.

Employing every acting muscle, Richard revives his alter ego, while stoking the embers of romance with former co-star Patricia Deville (Essie Davis), trading barbs with former series stunt man Clive Parnevik (Farnaby) and coveting the outrageous good fortune of former Mindhorn sidekick, Peter Eastman (Steve Coogan).

Filmed on location on the Isle of Man, Mindhorn is a potty-mouthed escape from dreary reality that pickpockets chuckles and the occasional snort of derision as the cast surrender to the script's lunacy.

Barratt is clearly having a ball as a fallen star, who couldn't care less about the death of an innocent girl until he has his morning Americano with hot milk.

Farnaby is equally goofy and their script contrives a ramshackle murder mystery that might pass muster on Midsomer Murders, with a considerably higher body count.