Washed up actor Richard Thorncroft sees a golden opportunity for a career boost when he’s called in to assist a murder investigation with a suspect obsessed with Mindhorn, a character he played in a 70’s cop show. It’s a clever premise although it must be said it’s not the most original in its genre and even less so amongst its peers. Although the production does stand out somewhat because of its 70’s style. Time has clearly been taken to study and replicate dated police shows, this is in many ways, a love letter to Midsomer Murders and John Nettles whom the film makes reference to so often.
One of the most obvious ways that this 70’s style comes through is in the visuals. Locations, costumes, props and framing are often designed to feel retro, with one of the main locations: the police station, being a perfect example. Whilst it can clearly be seen that this is director Sean Foley’s intention it can feel as though it lacks a little polish here and there, which makes out of date sets look even less appealing. Mindhorn often looks like a TV show that has hit the silver screen and it’s clear that the budget has not allowed a final layer of polish that is often needed.
It makes you wonder whether other areas of the film were hampered by the small budget as well, there are a few notable moments where scenes feel curtailed or where one doesn’t flow in to the next, as though there was something more to add here but it never made the final cut. There’s also times where a scene builds up to a seemingly risqué punch line only for it to not come. For the most part the Humour lands well (and the third act deserves special praise, as it’s laughs come fast and funny) but it leaves you wondering whether there’s a funnier draft of this script that, for one reason or another, had to be left on the cutting room floor.
In terms of the film’s peers the obvious comparison is Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, as whilst the minutia and details of both films differ, the initial premise is very similar. Mindhorn, however, often can’t get away with the selfish antics that make partridge so funny, as he lacks Partridge’s bumbling charisma. The other main difference is that Mindhorn feels as though it lacks the focus of Alpha Papa. Where Partridge’s hostage situation focuses on a tight set of locations and characters Mindhorn seems to expand in ever more twists and turns as it goes. It’s third act is absolutely its strongest and it’s not hard to follow, by any means, but it’s many converging paths make it hard to really care about a number of the motivations or tensions at play in the later stages
Mindhorn is a film with a good number of laughs, a good cast (not to mention some stunning guest appearances) and a fine core story. But by its conclusion you’ll be left feeling that somewhere there exists a slightly better version of this film which is more focused, more polished, better paced and a little sharper. As a result it’s hard to give Mindhorn a glowing recommendation, especially considering the calibre of its peers.
Mindhorn scored: 6.2/10