If you, like me, saw "Borat" and thought it so completely pushed the bounds of decency that it could never be topped, think again.
"Brüno" does just that.
Cohen again mines "Da Ali G Show" for a character in a sort of a guerilla mockumentary, where Cohen, as the flamboyantly Austrian gay Brüno, creates a pastiche of real and imagined, placing his fictional character into the real world and interacting with people. The results are equal parts searing social commentary and mean-spirited TMZ-style ambush cinema.
The "story" is a simple one: Brüno is a celebrity in his native Austria, where, after a scandal, loses his celebrity status ("The second time in 50 years that Austria's greatest citizen was ostracized simply for trying something different," he notes).
So he moves to LA with the simple goal of becoming famous.
If you want outrageousness, you'll find it here. "Brüno" features a live-action talking penis, an excercise bike modified to become a sex machine, Brüno attempting to make a sex tape with a very disturbed Ron Paul, more dildos than you can shake...well, a dildo at, and a sequence where, attempting to be "cured" of his homosexuality, Brüno meets with an Alabama "conversion" minister, promptly telling him he has great "blowjob lips."
And trust me, as I write these, 10 more simliarly audacious scenes spring to mind.
Cohen more than any other comedian, actor or activist this side of "South Park," blurs the line between crassness and satire. It's enough, for instance, when he sets off for the woods with a bunch of Alabama hunters for an overnight trip. We see their discomfort with him, and it's not hard to figure out what they think about his "lifestyle." By the time he strips nude and repeatedly tries to enter the tent of one of the hunters, all he's doing is validating their fears and turning the audience against him as a character.
At times, though, his antics shine a harsh light on the ugliness of humanity, the celebrity culture and the conservative right. When he holds audition interviews with parents of infant and toddler actors, it quickly becomes horrifying what the parents agree to allow Brüno to do to their children. They've trained themselves to never say no, and no matter how dangerous or offensive the stunt, they never bat an eye.
The film culminates in a scene at what the audience believes to be an Ultimate Fighting-type event that turns into an entirely different sort of spectacle. But it's not enough for Cohen to show the crowd's disgusting reaction to what happens, he has to turn up the volume on the scene, playing for the schock laugh.
The point of a film like this should be (and on some level is intended to mean) that it's pretty ridiculous the things people are deathly afraid of, like two men holding hands or being in love with each other or marrying each other.
But as much as it tries to tell us how ludicrous society is, its own outlandish behavior only enables those who fear this change to continue hating it.
Rating: 2 1/2 Yaps out of 5
Read Nick Rogers' review of "Bruno" here.