The Brothers Grimsby Film Review

   When one looks at England, it is possible to see two very different nations living in the same country.

   The first, the fantastical, make-believe version of Blighty often seen in big budget film releases, consists of debonair womanising spies boasting throw-away one-liners as sharp as the expensive suits they sport. The characters in these films drink from bone china and while away their lives in art galleries and frequenting ornate museums. This is an Albion which exists nowhere but in the deluded minds of racist patriots and misguided Hollywood executives.

   The second, perhaps the more accurate albeit highly exaggerated, is a country built on working-class values - the tight-knit communities whose meeting point is often a run-down local pub. The inhabitants of this England bear no pretensions and live in humdrum towns where the closest thing to cultural activity is cheering on the local sports team whom they all live through vicariously. Take-away boxes are preferred to overly elaborate dining rituals and the easy luxury of sporting attire is preferred to anything even bordering informal.

   Grimsby (a.k.a. The Brothers Grimsby). the latest big screen outing from Sacha Baron Cohen, sees a clash of both these Englands. Think Frank Gallagher in James Bond or Jason Statham visiting Benefits Street.





   The first of the two Englands, the vision of ourselves we like to present to the world, a universe full of high-tech gadgets and espionage, glamorous women and globe-trotting crime-fighting, is represented by under-cover super-sleuth Sebastian Butcher (Mark Strong). Slick, smart and coolly detached, Agent Sebastian fits the mold of an action-hero spy with the greatest of ease - his chiseled body, understated arrogance and fine sartorial tastes make him a Bond-in-waiting.

   Louis Leterrier's film introduces us too to Sebastian's long-estranged brother Norman or "Nobby", a tragic figure who pines for the sibling he hasn't seen for over two decades. In doing so, we are introduced to the second version of England also; whilst the secret agent was adopted as a young boy, and brought up with a life of affluence in London, Nobby had to raise himself in the run-down Northern town of Grimsby.

   The two worlds the brothers grew up in couldn't have been further removed - whilst Sebastian is clearly accustomed to the finer things in life, the prodigiously fertile Nobby's life consists of the permanent gratuitous indulgences of pro-creating, alcohol, drugs and shirtless partying. Yet, touchingly, here is a man who will be written off as underclass "scum" his whole life but bears a heart full of love - love for his family, a love of living life to the most incredible of extremes and, indisputably, a love for a brother he has yet to meet as an adult.


   When the paths of the siblings do cross - Nobby tracks down and tried to embrace Sebastian during a top secret mission - it becomes clear that an immense clash of cultures will take place. Nobby, an England-kit wearing lager lout, and Sebastian, a trained killer in the upper reaches of the UK's security services, couldn't be superficially further apart. Yet, as their adventures together begin we see that England is not just one thing, its not black and white - yes, the upper and middle-classes of London who dominate Britain on-screen exist in real life but, just as importantly to this country, so do the feckless and the fecund, the downbeat and the downcast.

   As the film draws to a rousing climax, Nobby reminds us of this - a Churchillian speech notes how its the "scum" who built the hopsitals "they" (the Establishment) want to close down; the "scum" who fought in two World Wars; the "scum" who Vin Diesel owes his career to. This is a movie with social commentary to make but, more importantly, scatological humour and dick jokes to make too. Whilst we may find ourselves unexpectedly moved by young Nobby's stoic dignity, of the bond between brothers, or stirred by the political satire and rhetoric on show, the scenes that will remain with us long after the credits have faded take place in the insides of a highly promiscuous elephant.

   This is a film about all of us. This is Grimsby. This is England.
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