City Paper is not for tourists
Brüno reinforces what Borat already showed us: that Sacha Baron Cohen, literally and figuratively, has balls. You may wince when things get graphic — and they do, suddenly, brazenly, hilariously — but you’ll truly cringe if you consider the situations Cohen is putting himself in for a laugh.
Brüno is a character from the comedian’s television show, a gay Austrian “fashionista” who insists he’s 19 years old and moves to Los Angeles determined to become one of the famous-for-being-famous. His strategies are cherry-picked from celebrity whims, including starting his own talk show and adopting an African baby. In a desperate attempt to simply get in the news, he provokes a terrorist in hope of getting kidnapped, telling the guy that “Your King Osama looks like a dirty wizard.” And, finally, he decides his homosexuality is a crutch and turns to church counseling to brainwash the gay right out of him.
Like Borat, the tightly edited, 83-minute Brüno, both directed by Larry Charles, is less a story than a series of situations that are sometimes obscene (it’s astonishing the rating is a mere R), sometimes silly (the actor can flail spectacularly), but are mostly meant to wring maximum awkwardness between Cohen and his allegedly unsuspecting victims.
But, also like Borat, you can be easily taken out of the film by wondering what’s real and what’s staged. The climactic scene of Cohen posing as “Straight Dave” in an Arkansas cage match, sadly, feels quite genuine, its audience reacting with horror and violence when he doesn’t fight an opponent but kisses him instead. A self-defense lesson is another story — really, would a mullet’d karate instructor humor several questions about protecting oneself from a dildo-wielding attacker?
Regardless, the bottom line is this: If you’re offended by Hitler jokes, racial stereotyping, explicit sexuality, or the gay caricature that is Brüno himself, this film will boil your blood. Otherwise, it’s so outlandishly riotous it should be considered a choking hazard.