Sacha Baron Cohen cuts to the bone with surgical precision in the guise of his faux naive alter egos – when he’s on sparkling form.
Streetwise voice of ‘da yoof’ Ali G, Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev and flamboyant Austrian fashion reporter Bruno Gehard were comic creations par excellence.
But global recognition means Cohen can no longer pull off that kind of devilish hoodwinkery.
He’s resorted to traditional scripted comedy, which has exposed his limitations as a writer and performer.
He scrapes the bottom of a deep and grubby barrel in Grimsby, an offensive crime caper in the mould of James Bond that cocks its leg and urinates wildly over political correctness.
Laughs are in pitifully short supply in a tsunami of body fluids and class stereotypes, washed down with a trickle of gags about paedophilia, Aids and drug addiction.
Cohen plays Nobby Butcher, a football hooligan who lives in Grimsby with his sex-crazed girlfriend Lindsey (Rebel Wilson) and 11 obscenity-spewing children, whose names include Skeletor and Django Unchained.
For 28 years, Nobby has been separated from his younger brother Sebastian (Mark Strong), unaware that his sibling has become a secret agent with the Tiger Tail Unit of MI6.
Their awkward reunion unfolds at a press conference, where a Ukrainian thug called Pavel (Scott Adkins) assassinates the director of the World Health Organisation and Sebastian is framed.
The brothers go on the run, aided by Sebastian’s simpering MI6 handler, Jodie (Isla Fisher).
Rival agent Chilcott (Sam Hazeldine) is dispatched to terminate the rogue asset and the brothers lie low in the eponymous northern seaport – twin city to Chernobyl – with Nobby’s beer-swilling pals (John Thomson, Ricky Tomlinson, Johnny Vegas).
Grimsby is lewd, crude and poorly-structured, ricocheting between frenetic action sequences and heart-tugging flashbacks to Nobby and Sebastian’s childhood.
The film’s depiction of the titular community as a wasteland of council houses crammed with ‘working class scum’, and benefit scroungers leaves an equally bitter taste in the mouth.
Wilson and Fisher are squandered in thankless supporting roles.
During a pivotal fight, Strong’s resourceful agent repels evil henchmen with a blast from a fire hose.
By the end of Leterrier’s unsavoury film, we also need a soaking to wash off the stink of Cohen’s brand of mean-spirited and stomach-churning humour.