The crown of the reigning king of bad taste must pass from John Waters to Sacha Baron Cohen. After Borat he pushes the envelope even further in Brüno with frontal nudity, graphic sex and Nazi jokes and much worse besides. It’s gross, offensive and puerile in equal measure—but it is impossible not to laugh while you wince and recoil. Prospects, despite the R rating (for pervasive strong and crude sexual content, graphic nudity and language), must be rosy.
The pattern is the same as Borat, except this time Sacha Baron Cohen has created for himself a gay Austrian fashionista who sets off the States with his trusty German assistant to become, in his words, “the biggest gay movie star since Schwarzenegger.”
He finds himself at a loose end after he’s fired from his Austrian television show because he brought the house down, almost literally, when his Velcro outfit created a major incident at a fashion show in Milan.
So what does he get up to in Hollywood? He hosts a TV talk show with guests Paula Abdul and LaToya Jackson, who take to their heels after being served sushi from the body of a naked Mexican. There is a half-hearted attempt to go straight “just like Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kevin Spacey.” And he calls in a focus group to give their verdicts on a television show he has produced which is totally disgusting.
At one point he becomes chained to his assistant for a bit of bondage and then they try to board a bus—naked and unashamed. There’s a wrestling match in a cave and a swingers’ party that swings in unexpected directions. He tries to seduce Ron Paul, the former Presidential candidate, and there’s a hilarious scene when, acting as the producer of a film, he tells the proud parents of a prospective cast member that their son would be expected to dress as a Nazi and push a wheelbarrow into an oven. Its contents are a Jewish baby. The mother’s unrepentant response is: “That’s fine as long as he gets the gig.”
Much of the fun is to be derived from watching the consternation and reaction of those who are not in on the joke—but after Borat it’s clear many people are wiser and the makers may have had to work harder to spring the surprises.
Its crisp running time ensures that not a second feels labored, and there’s barely enough time to recover from one assault on the senses before another comes along to take your breath away.
Some audiences will embrace it all with a venom, others may shrink from the vulgarity—but whatever your persuasion, a smirk of some kind seems certain to appear from nowhere despite yourself and your better nature. The answer is probably to let it all hang out: our Sacha certainly does.
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Richard Bey, Ron Paul, Paula Abdul, Domiziano Arcangeli, Emerson Brooks and Alice Evans
Director: Larry Charles
Screenwriters: Sacha Baron Cohen, Dan Mazer, Jeff Schaffer and Anthony Hines
Producers: Monica Levinson, Dan Mazer, Jay Roach and Sacha Baron Cohen
Rating: R for pervasive strong and crude sexual content, graphic nudity and language.
Running time: 83 min.
Release date: July 10, 2009