It's entirely possible that Sacha Baron Cohen maxed out comedically with Borat, a socially relevant, timely film that managed to be smart and incredibly gross in equal measure. He's never quite lived up to the standard that one set, whether it was with Bruno or The Dictator, two films that tried to combine narrative with Cohen's penchant for stealthy guerrilla antics. He ditches that tactic completely with spy comedy The Brothers Grimsby, but what he doesn't ditch are his endless supply of dick and body fluid jokes, of which there are ample amounts of both. It's like Cohen buys them by the pound, or better yet, by the gallon.
The disturbing extent to which Cohen and co-writer Phil Johnston go to gain laughs can be summed up like this: Daniel Radcliffe and Donald Trump both contract HIV by accidentally ingesting the infected blood of a crippled Palestinian-Israeli boy who is shot and thrown from his wheelchair at different points in the film. Oh, and Cohen and co-star Mark Strong find themselves anally relieved during an elephant gangbang, in which the two actors are literally inside a female pachyderm's vagina. The amount of seminal fluid seen in this film could power the porn industry for decades. And while all of that is disgusting and only scratches the surface of the deplorable levels it sinks, the brazenness of it is worth more laughs than you'll care to admit.
Sporting a beer belly, a snaggle tooth, and some funky muttonchops, Cohen plays Nobby Butcher, a low-class English football hooligan prone to lighting firecrackers up his butt (a skill that comes in handy, it turns out) at the local pub, where he hangs out with other drunken degenerates. He's got a dozen kids (all with ridiculous names like "Django Unchained"), and a skanky wife, (Rebel Wilson), but Nobby can't escape memories of his brother, Sebastian (Strong), who he was separated from as a kid and has been searching for evr since. But Sebastian didn't want to be found, and yet the reunion happens anyway in spectacularly disastrous fashion. Now a lethal MI-6 agent, Sebastian is seconds away from thwarting the assassination of a global philanthropist (Penelope Cruz), only for Nobby to foul things up, causing another world leader to be killed, Radcliffe to become infected with HIV, and Sebastian accused of the attempted murder. That's one helluva trifecta.
Suffice it to say, Sebastian is not happy to see his bro again, but in need of a place to hide he agrees to go back to his hometown of Grimsby where the idiotic townsfolk immediately give away his location. Forced back on the run, the Butcher boys are thrust into one improbable predicament after another, with the plot basically serving as a framework for increasingly shocking visual gags. So if you hoped to one day see Mark Strong teabag Sacha Baron Cohen, then drizzle a little pre-ejaculate all over his face, then this is the movie you've been waiting for. In-between all of the juvenile bits there are a few genuinely sweet flashbacks showing the Butcher boys in their younger, knuckleheaded days. The separation drove Sebastian to be the serious, straight-arrow man he grew up to be, while it did the complete opposite for Nobby, who hasn't really changed at all.
The bombast extends beyond the humor and into the frenetic visual presentation by director Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, The Incredible Hulk). Every time one of the guys utters the words "Green Earth", a ramped-up first-person-shooter-on-crack display fires up, bad guys and bullets flash across the screen like enemies in a video game. While this quickly grows tiresome, and strangely kills the momentum during fight scenes, it's also hilarious when employed in a comic sense, like when an erstwhile cheetah finds Nobby suitable prey.
That the film goes crazily over-the-top in terms of toilet humor and culturally-insensitive material should shock absolutely nobody. Just as it shouldn't come as a surprise that Cohen is really great at it, and fully committed to playing the idiotic Nobby. What is a little surprising is the sight of Strong, a refined and highly respected actor, indulging in it right along with him. The rest of the cast, led by Ian McShane, Rebel Wilson, Gabourey Sidibe, and Cohen's wife Isla Fisher, are capable but at only 83 minutes there isn't time for any of them to do much that can be categorized as offensive. Does an up-close shot of Sidibe's bush count as offensive? The Brothers Grimsby swings and misses as often as knocks one out of the park, but one has to commend Cohen for his absolute willingness to do anything to make us all smile.
Rating: 3 out of 5