Myself and Ms. Plants went to see the new Sacha Baron Cohen film, Brüno last night, and we are still recovering from the experience. For a couple of weeks more, the 18-cert film will continue in its current form before being censored considerably and re-released with a 15 cert instead.
Because the public at large have got used to both Ali G and Borat, any new film would need to use a different personality to get away with what these films contain, that is - luring people, famous or ordinary into situations where their underlying prejudices and opinions are teased to the surface and then letting the camera take in the results. This is what Cohen does best, it's an effective tool for satire which perhaps reached a peak with the Borat film, it has unfortunately been scaled back here in favour of pure visual shock.
Brüno is clearly different to his other two creations. A hugely homosexualised Austrian fashionista figure, making the purpouseless souls in Boogie Woogie look deep by comparison, he makes huge mistake by going to a fashion shoot dressed completely in velcro, attaching himself to clothing and scenery and ruining the catwalk. The loose thread holding the story together then follows him as he travels to the US to regain his fame, followed by his love-struck assistants' assistant. Along the way he meets with a variety of people and situations fuelled by his selfish goal to become super-famous once more.
Along the way, the film employs many many shock tactics. Anyone who has seen the film Borat will know what I mean when I say 'the bedroom fight scene'. Remember how you reacted when you saw that for the first time, watching it through gaps between your fingers? Imagine a dozen scenes like that, or worse. A recurring tool for acheiving this is Brüno's rampant homosexuality, so plenty of man-bits are on show, and even though there is little you could call actual sex in the film, what he acheives with mime or colourful adjectives (or even his own specially modified exercise bike) is enough to make us close our eyes tightly and whimper 'no-no-no...' until it was all over.
This is the strength of the film but also its weakness. Brüno could be seen as the logical end to the path laid down by Cohen's previous two characters, the shock tactics being brought to such a conclusive peak, I cannot see where it could possibly go from here. The film relies so heavily on these shock scenes that, once it is cut down to fit into the 15-cert standards, there won't be an awful lot left of it for the audience to enjoy, and the slower, talkier segments between them that seemed almost a relief in the full version will become a bore. If my review hasn't put you off, I would recommend that you see it in its current form rather than waiting. You might be horribly scarred for life, but you'll have got your moneys worth.
We enjoyed Brüno. We left the theatre giggling like schoolchildren, quite unable to believe what we had just seen, and we were quite sure that one viewing would be enough. But after the shock had died back a little bit, we realised that the film had managed several things: It was clearly able to make us laugh, it would remain in our memories for a long, long time to come, and we talked heatedly about it all the way home. And it desensitised us to just about everything else we will see, ever. Even if it does manage to offend or shock people more than any other film before it, it has managed these things, which all work in its favour. 6.5/10