In Mindhorn, Julian Barratt plays Richard Thorncroft, an out-of-work actor who once played a fictional, famous TV detective called Mindhorn in the 1980s. The sleuth had a robotic eye that would allow him to ‘see the truth’ and we’re introduced to his entire backstory via TV ‘footage’ that shows us a spoof-life TV detective who very much part of that era in terms of tech and crime adventures with a definite Magnum, P.I. vibe.
Mindhorn has fine ideas for something really fun and while it does get going in places, the opening sequences almost happen too fast and we’re thrown into a large world and expected to take it all in like it’s something we already know. If you think of your classic BBC Two comedy, in that Steve Coogan vein, and Barratt is impressive in the role but direction is a little slow and predictable, it’d benefit from an Edgar Wright-like snappiness to get into the low-key British ‘action’.
While Thorncroft tries to recapture the glory of his younger years, it doesn’t go well because his ex-lover is with his ex-stunt man, his friends have moved on and are doing better than him and the Police don’t like him because he insulted the country they used to film in. There’s no doubting of occasional funny moments but they feel like the improv’d ones, rather than the pace of the rest of the comedy. A scene where Thorncroft breaks down also reminded me of Wayne’s World, after Wayne starts to realise that everything is getting away from him and wondered what the hell is going on, it’s that kind of spoof-vibe going on.
Early cameos make for a fun distraction but – again – you wonder if this would have worked better as a TV series with gradual introductions and flashbacks to different moments in his history. There’s a good cast here as well, with the likes of Steve Coogan, Andrea Riseborough, Russell Tovey, Essie Davis, Simon Farnaby all involved and giving fine performances. Its redeeming features are that the plot moves along nicely and so it has a focus throughout proceedings but, again on the flip-side, it’s also a little predictable. Mindhorn has a lot of promise and could maybe be re-worked into something different because, rather disappointingly, it’s all a little forgettable.