Alex Casey is a staff writer for New Zealand pop culture-obsessed website The Spinoff and columnist for the NZ Herald.

Alex Casey: Grim by name and nature

A scene from Grimsby.
A scene from Grimsby.

This week I saw two films that have been caught up in their own internet frenzies, and that exercised the art of restraint in very different ways. The first was Grimsby, the latest entry to Sacha Baron Cohen's canon of gross-out character comedy. The second was 10 Cloverfield Lane, spiritual sequel to the JJ Abrams-produced Cloverfield, a psychological thriller set in an underground bunker during what could possibly be an ends-of-days attack on Earth.

Grimsby is a horrifically graphic and defiantly disgusting comedy that had the cinema squirming. It follows the story of Nobby, a father of 11 living in a small fishing town, who is reunited with his missing brother of 28 years. He accompanies him on a secret agent mission to save the world from a deadly virus.

It sounds like a rollicking spy caper and has its fair share of action and intrigue, but these nuances disappear under a stream of genitals, toilet jokes and what feels like almost constant references to ejaculating.

I've been sworn to not give too much away, but you should be wary about the types of snacks to take. Some of the scenes are enough to put you off food and drink completely.
Grimsby puts all of its grimy, sloppy cards on the table in the first five minutes but 10 Cloverfield Lane plays a different game of cat and mouse.

Hurtling us into an underground bunker run by a disturbingly chipper John Goodman, we are forced like his captive Michelle (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to search for small clues to determine what has happened to the world above - if anything.

10 Cloverfield Lane goes above and beyond with the art of the tease, blending subtle hints with blatant twists that smack you across the face. It is exhilarating, unpredictable, and most certainly doesn't disappoint when the long overdue reveal occurs.

How much do we trust Michelle's captive? What are those ominous noises outside? Like Room, the suffocating location does plenty to toy with your bearings. In Cloverfield, we are shown glimmers of story through a (literal) keyhole, whereas Grimsby shows you how the whole sausage is made - and then puts that sausage somewhere terrible and forces you to endure the whole thing.

Sacha Baron Cohen certainly knows how to go all in with his vision for chaos. Unfortunately too often he crosses the line between outrageous and desperately offensive.

Grimsby claws humour out of every human crevice at its disposal but 10 Cloverfield Lane manages to find humour in even the most fraught situations. Held captive by a strange man in his underground lair, there were still opportunities for slivers of light to shine through the oppressive darkness.

In one scene, John Goodman, ever toeing the moral line between villain and saviour, puts on the jukebox and does a Dad dance. It is deeply unnerving and audiences aren't sure whether to laugh with him or hide behind their hands.

John Goodman in a scene from 10 Cloverfield Lane.
John Goodman in a scene from 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Both films achieved what they set out to. Grimsby is happy to wallow around in the gross, the absurd and the impossible. Through the stream of sludge, Baron Cohen's lead character has a heart of gold and you get a small peek at brotherly love through what is essentially a long line of bum jokes.

10 Cloverfield Lane opts for the slow burn before exploding in the last 20 minutes. Both films feature awe-inspiring reveals - you just have to see them to find out what exactly they are.

Rated R16, showing now

10 Cloverfield Lane
Rated M, showing now


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Alex Casey is a staff writer for New Zealand pop culture-obsessed website The Spinoff and columnist for the NZ Herald.

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