For a comedian, Julian Barratt never seemed especially comfortable being funny. As zookeeper Howard Moon in The Mighty Boosh, his character was vain and selfish; but never especially comical. Playing journalist Dan Ashcroft in Nathan Barley, he was the voice of reason in amidst the ridiculous hipster setting he was there to document. Perhaps that’s why Barratt’s career has never accelerated along similar lines to his peers – he doesn’t seem a natural fit for panel shows or prime time sitcoms.
Mindhorn, which Barratt co-wrote and stars in, at least shares some similarities with his earlier work. He plays actor Richard Thorncroft who, during his Eighties’ pomp, enjoyed success as Bruce Mindhorn – a TV detective based on the Isle of Man, whose left eye had been replaced by a bionic implant, allowing him to “see the truth”. In the present day, Thorncroft is unemployed, delusional and overweight; unable to move on from his former glories. In that sense, like Vincent Moon or Dan Ashcroft, Thorncroft is locked in his own world. A shot at redemption comes when a killer, loose on the Isle of Man, demands to negotiate with Mindhorn.
As a character, Mindhorn is a familiar comic creation in the tradition of Alan Partridge or Stephen Toast – pompous, overbearing, lacking self-awareness – the plot, too, has echoes of the Partridge Alpha Papa movie. But the film’s strength lies in less obvious laughs. Returning to the Isle of Man, Thorncroft meets his former co-star and ex Patricia DeVille (Essie Davies), chirpy stunt man Clive (Simon Farnaby; the film’s co-writer) and another former co-star (Steve Coogan) who has launched a successful business empire on the back of his Mindhorn spin-off. Here, it is possible to watch Thorncroft gradually unravel during each humiliating encounter. The film sags, though, towards the end – as the need for a ‘serious’ conclusion to the narrative overwhelms the silliness of Barratt and Farnaby’s confection.
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The June 2017 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on Summer Of Love, talking to the musicians, promoters and scenesters on both sides of the Atlantic who were there. Plus, we count down the 50 essential songs from the Summer Of Love, from The Seeds to The Smoke, and including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd. Elsewhere in the issue, we remember Chuck Berry, go on the road with Bob Dylan and there are interview Fleet Foxes, Fairport Convention, Fred Wesley, Jane Birkin and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks’ co-conspirators Angelo Badalamenti and Julee Cruise. Our free CD has been exclusively compiled for us by Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold and includes cuts from Todd Rundgren, Neu!, Van Dyke Parks, The Shaggs, Arthur Russell and Cate Le Bon. Plus there’s Feist, Paul Weller, Perfume Genius, Ray Davies, Joan Shelley, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, Johnny Cash, Alice Coltrane, John Martyn and more in our exhaustive reviews section