If you’ve followed the progress of Sacha Baron Cohen, then you’ll know that Bruno, like Borat before him, really isn’t that new a character. Back in the days when Cohen was still performing as Ali G on UK screens, both of the aforementioned creations were around. Clearly, he feels his previous work is worth revisiting and recreating on a Hollywood scale, and the success of the Borat movie proves it can work.
The question is whether he can repeat this success with a character that shares many traits with Borat, but at the same time is totally different. Whereas Borat, in showing a Kazakhstan national, mainly offended the people of that country, Bruno risks alienating not only Austrians but the entire gay community.
Being neither homosexual or Austrian, I can’t really assess whether this is the case, and I’m only able to look at the movie from the perspective of someone that doesn’t belong to any of the social groups that Cohen targets. As it happens, Austrian gays aren’t his targets, but he crudely uses homosexuality to get a laugh and to supposedly expose the bigotry of those that he chooses to ridicule.
Similar to Borat, then, Cohen uses a fictional character to provoke a response from unsuspecting third parties by behaving in generally objectionable ways. In this case, Bruno is a self-absorbed, hedonistic, overtly gay Austrian male supermodel, who thinks nothing of flopping his cock out in front his targets.
Being set in America, his quarry mainly consist of uneducated rednecks, but he also throws in a healthy proportion of idiotic African Americans too, just to show his superiority crosses racial boundaries as well as lines of class.
Admittedly, a lot of what he gets up to is funny, but often in an uncomfortable kind of way where you don’t know what else to do but laugh, for example, pretending to be an uber-macho cage fighter in front of a baying crowd, and then stripping down and simulating gay sex with the other supposed fighter. Yes, some of the people in the audience might be homophobic, but many probably just don’t want to see two men kissing each other’s navels when they paid to see a fight. Clearly, the question of public decency has to come into question at some point.
Also, there’s the matter of respect to consider. At one point, Bruno goes to a swingers’ party, in a supposed attempt to turn straight, but instead he deliberately puts off a guy mid-stroke, as it were, by constantly touching him and urging him to “look into my eyes”. This man is predictably displeased, but quite rightly so, because rather than showing off his super liberal credentials, Cohen just makes himself look like a complete arseole.
At times, though, Bruno is a hilarious piece of comedy, and there’s no doubting Cohen’s commitment or ability. It doesn’t really feel like a proper movie, though, which oddly makes it particularly suitable for the iPod. You don’t lose much by watching on a small screen, because it just feels like an overlong TV program anyway. There are quite a few bits spoken in German that are subtitled, which could have presented a problem on a small screen, but helpfully the text is quite big, and when you zoom the picture, they still fit within the confines of the screen.
It’s quite a bitty kind of film too, which should make it ideal for watching in short bursts, such as when you’re taking the train or bus to work. However, bear in mind that there are scenes of a sexual nature, including Cohen’s gyrating and flapping man meat – all of which have the potential to offend your fellow passengers.
Bruno is available from the iTunes store.