The babbling actor is Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt) star of the eponymous Mindhorn, an Isle of Man-set 80s cop serial that made Knight Rider look like James Bond. Kitted out with a bionic eye that could literally see the truth, Mindhorn bonnet-slid his way to the big time. However as the line between success and excess began to blur, it wasn’t long before Thorncroft discovered the fickle and fleeting nature of fame. Cut to present day and he’s a nobody, forced to make ends meet by advertising men’s girdles and unflattering thrombi-socks, but when a deluded murderer demands to speak to his fictional alter-ego Thorncroft spies an opportunity to rise to the challenge and more importantly, give his career a bit of a boost.
Returning to his TV show stomping ground he soon sets his sights on old flame Patty Deville (Essie Davies), much to the bemusement of her new husband and ex-Mindhorn stunt-double Clive (Simon Farnaby). However with personal problems building and a police case looming Thorncroft finds himself faced with his toughest Mindhorn mission yet - not being an complete arsehole.
The Mighty Boosh man Julian Barratt may have kept a relatively low-profile since the success of his colourful telly hit but with the help of Farnaby he proves himself a force to be reckoned with on the big screen too. Using Thorncroft’s unashamed pomposity, the duo take a comical stab at the often absurd nature of the acting world. From treating real life policing like a second-rate acting gig, to Thorncroft’s incessant need to don his shoes before really ‘becoming’ the character, Mindhorn is littered with barbs at the ridiculousness of acting. The pair have a great on-screen rapport which makes for some funny stuff and while the film gets a bit bogged down in its own perfunctory plot halfway through, there’s enough laugh-out-loud gags to keep you grinning throughout, especially as it sprints through its crazy final act.
With a history of character comedy, it’s probably no surprise that Barratt has created something of Brent or Partridge-like potential (Speaking of which, Coogan gets in on the fun too) that struggles to stay within the confines of a cinema screen. Throw all these elements together and Mindhorn seems destined for cult hit status so don’t be surprised if we see more of this clueless detective in the future.
Mindhorn is in cinemas now. Follow the link to read my interview with Julian Barratt for The Big Issue North.