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The Brothers Grimsby Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

The Brothers Grimsby (2016) movie poster The Brothers Grimsby

Theatrical Release: March 11, 2016 (UK Release: February 24, 2016) / Running Time: 83 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Louis Leterrier / Writers: Sacha Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston, Peter Baynham

Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen (Norman "Nobby" Butcher), Mark Strong (Commander Sebastian Graves), Isla Fisher (Jodie Figgs), Rebel Wilson (Dawn Grobham), Gabourey Sidibe (Banu the Cleaner), Penélope Cruz (Rhonda George), Barkhad Abdi (Tabansi Nyagura), Scott Adkins (Pavel Lukashenko), John Bradley (Derrick Fellner), David Harewood (Black Gareth), Tamsin Egerton (Carla Barnes), Sam Hazeldine (Jeremy Chilcott), John Thomson (Bob Tolliver), Ricky Tomlinson (Paedo Pete), Johnny Vegas (Milky Pimms), Annabelle Wallis (Lina Smit), Ian McShane (MI6 Spy Boss - uncredited)

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On 2006's Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen made about as big a splash on the world movie scene as any relatively unknown actor could hope to. The politically incorrect mockumentary grossed $128 million domestic and $262 M worldwide on an $18 M budget and earned Baron Cohen an Oscar nomination for adapted screenplay. Not bad for a UK comic whose HBO series was not widely known
and whose first film didn't even make it to North America. Since then, Baron Cohen's career has been a tale of diminishing returns. He has fared well with supporting roles in respected films like Sweeney Todd, Hugo, and Les Misérables. But subsequent solo vehicles built on the actor's outrageous alter egos have failed to land anywhere near the impact or appreciation that Borat did.

While 2009's Brüno and 2012's The Dictator could be considered underperformers domestically for their front-loaded performances on heavy marketing budgets, 2016's The Brothers Grimsby was an outright commercial disaster, opening in eighth place and fading fast, closing a month later having earned a paltry $6.8 M domestic. Other markets weren't any more receptive to the poorly-reviewed action comedy, suggesting Baron Cohen's shtick and creative power may be wearing thin.

An original tale that Baron Cohen wrote with Phil Johnston (Wreck-It Ralph, Zootopia, Cedar Rapids) and repeat collaborator Peter Baynham (Borat, Brüno, Alan Partridge), Grimsby tells the tale of two orphaned brothers who have long been estranged. One of them, Nobby (Baron Cohen), is a dim-witted soccer enthusiast. The other, Sebastian (Mark Strong), is a skilled secret agent.

Two brothers (Mark Strong and Sacha Baron Cohen), inseparable as children then estranged for 28 years, reconnect and team up in "The Brothers Grimsby."

Clunky exposition establishes that Nobby, a father of nine children named after pop culture items, has not seen Sebastian in 28 years, but refuses to give up searching. Scattered flashbacks to the brothers' inseparable childhood at an orphanage are meant to supply some emotion and stakes. But they really just function as a respite from the obscene, over-the-top comedy we've come to expect from Baron Cohen films.

Nobby and Sebastian reconnect at a charity event, where Sebastian's mission is compromised by his brother and he accidentally winds up shooting an AIDS-stricken child, killing the World Health Organization's head, and infecting Daniel Radcliffe (played by someone who clearly isn't Daniel Radcliffe) with HIV via airborne blood and throat wounds. Suddenly targeted by all the world's intelligence agents for botching the mission, Sebastian must return to his childhood hometown of Grimsby, which Nobby still calls home, to lay low.

While trying to stay alive, Nobby and Sebastian uncover conspiracy involving an actress and philanthropist (Penelope Cruz). And when Sebastian accidentally injects himself with heroin instead of a bone calcifier, Nobby has to assume his spy duties for him.

Brothers Grimsby extends Baron Cohen's reputation for being a risqué provocateur. If you think the scene in which Nobby clutches a lit firework in his anus is outrageous, that is just the tip of the iceberg. There is the scene in which Nobby must suck poisonous venom out of his brother's shoulder and testicle. Then there is the big show-stopping number in which Nobby and Sebastian, hiding inside the vagina of an elephant for some reason, must endure the violent thrusts and copious semen of a series of elephants penetrating their hiding spot.

Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen) attempts a Sean Connery accent as he assumes the spy duties of his incapacitated MI6 agent brother.

If you've followed Baron Cohen's career at all, you must be disappointed with how it has progressed. "Da Ali G Show", the early Noughties HBO comedy series that introduced Borat and Brüno to some American viewers, is one of the funniest TV shows I've ever seen. It holds up remarkably well, even entertaining thoroughly on return visits. I know this because just two nights before watching Brothers Grimsby,
I delighted in revisiting certain Borat segments I've seen multiple times before. The format of the series did not directly lend to a feature film treatment and once Baron Cohen became someone that people might recognize, he had to kind of reinvent his shtick. He did not, however, have to change from making us laugh to making us cringe. And yet, he did just that. With Borat being as well-received by critics and moviegoers alike as he could have hoped, that became the model for making mockumentaries and comedies that poke fun at America and its lingering prejudices.

Grimsby sees Baron Cohen inventing just his second post-"Ali G Show" alter ego for a film. It departs from the Borat/Brüno format, but crudeness again seems to be asking to stand in for wit. Grimsby is entirely devoid of taste and very nearly entirely devoid of humor. Baron Cohen and his co-writers evidently would prefer to make viewers squirm than laugh. This time around, there is virtually none of the creativity and commentary that have distinguished his best-reviewed work. And virtually none of the jokes hit their marks. The film flounders as a comedy and as a violent spy action thriller, its story crumbling under the lightest of thought. How have the star's once brilliant comic instincts gone so far awry? He and his colleagues must be the only ones who think putting heroes in the middle of messy, forceful elephant copulation is funny. Most other gags are too stupid to even bother mentioning. The closest thing to a bright spot may be the exchange where Nobby mistakes a seductive spy for a hotel maintenance worker and her dirty talk about his anatomy for a description of the turds that clogged his toilet.

That clogged toilet poses an easy analogy to describe what has befallen Baron Cohen's once bright and promising film career. "From the man who brought you Borat" has become more of a threat and a warning than an invitation. And everyone seems to have noticed, from moviegoers staying away to critics unable to get onboard with Baron Cohen's comedy vision. As for the commercial disappointment, you can cushion the blow by acknowledging that the film makes no effort to appeal to Americans, instead delving into hooligan culture and a fandom that means nothing to them.

If there is a silver lining to this cloud, it is in the bittersweet fact that Grimsby finds supporting roles for not one but two dark-skinned recent Oscar nominees (Barkhad Abdi of Captain Phillips and Gabourey Sidibe of Precious) that Hollywood hasn't had any significant work for. How depressing but not surprising that this is evidently the best gig available to them.

The Brothers Grimsby hit Blu-ray and DVD this week. The former, equipped with Digital HD UltraViolet, is the edition reviewed here.

The Brothers Grimsby Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English, French), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: June 21, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $30.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($26.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Brothers Grimsby is adequate but not quite great on a purely technical level. Louis Leterrier, who seemingly came to this project via Baron Cohen's wife Isla Fisher instead of both returning for Now You See Me 2, is no novice at action, having helmed The Transporter, Clash of the Titans, and 2008's The Incredible Hulk. Nonetheless, the film's lighting and colors do seem to be a tad off at times, not due to any fault of the Blu-ray, whose 2.40:1 transfer is sharp and pristine. Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio has some kick to it in explosive action scenes while keeping the oft-crude dialogue crisp and as intelligible as the accents allow.

High-five! Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong share a moment in a green screen driving scene from the gag reel. Rebel Wilson, barely in the film as Nobby's wife, does show up in one of the three deleted scenes.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with "Line O Rama" (2:21), which supplies alternatives to various lines uttered in the film.

A gag reel running 2 minutes and 34 seconds mostly finds the actors cracking up at what they are asked to do (glad someone's enjoying this).

Three deleted scenes (8:54) give us Nobby's job interview, another exchange with his wife (an underused Rebel Wilson) and a disgusting running gag involving a crime scene investigator who always tastes the evidence, even when it's feces or elephant semen.

Academy Award nominee Gabourey Sidibe shows up at the end of the extended version of the elephant sex scene. Sacha Baron Cohen and director Louis Leterrier enjoy a moment on the set of "The Brothers Grimsby" in the Blu-ray's making-of featurette.

Next, three extended scenes (9:02) provide more of Nobby's plane ride hooligan lessons to his brother, quite a bit more of the elephant sex scene, and the follow-up bathtub scene

in which the brothers discuss the origins of AIDS.

"The Making of The Brothers Grimsby" (11:50) is a sincere and fairly standard featurette serving up lots of behind-the-scenes footage and talking heads.

Finally, "The Elephant in the Room" (4:21) gives us an unnecessarily graphic look at how the film's most outrageous scene was filmed, from the construction of elephant vagina prosthetics and penis puppet to the development and production of so much elephant semen. This surely will answer the questions you didn't think to ask.

Sorry, DVD viewers, the gag reel, deleted and extended scenes, and elephant featurette are all exclusive to the Blu-ray.

"Previews" repeats the long reel of full trailers with which the disc opens, advertising The Night Before, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, Ghostbusters (2016), Sausage Party (red band), The Bronze, and Hello, My Name Is Doris. Grimsby's own trailers are characteristically missing.

The menu attaches score to a still image of the two brothers and the Blu-ray is authored to both resume playback and support bookmarks.

The disc, whose full-color label gives us a rear view of an elephant, is held in a slipcovered, side-snapped keepcase, accompanied by an insert supplying Digital HD with UltraViolet information as well as another code to claim another Sony movie for $4.99 shipped.

Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen) quickly develops a fondness for guns, which he uses to dispense anyone and anything in his path.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Brothers Grimsby pushes Sacha Baron Cohen further along the downward spiral his film career has been in since Borat launched it ten years ago. It's tough to imagine there is any audience that will appreciate this vulgar comedy, which earns a hard R rating but otherwise plays like an even more immature version of the Austin Powers movies.

The fine picture and sound plus worthwhile extras of Sony's Blu-ray do not make this a film or disc worthy of your time and money.

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Sacha Baron Cohen: The DictatorBrünoHugoAlice Through the Looking GlassSweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Mark Strong: Low Winter Sun: The Complete SeriesBody of LiesZero Dark ThirtyThe Way BackThe GuardSherlock HolmesStardust
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Directed by Louis Leterrier: Now You See Me
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Reviewed June 23, 2016.



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