Cohen’s ‘Bruno’ has bite

By Gus Bode


Rated: R

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten


Directed by: Larry Charles

Runtime: 81 min.

Rating: C

‘Bruno’ is an excellent film for making its audience uncomfortable and occasionally rewarding them with truly funny moments.

Unfortunately, the sum of these pieces does not add up to a quality film. There are intensely funny moments accompanied by slow, awkwardly paced interviews and reactions.

The film succeeds wonderfully in pushing the boundaries of an R-rated movie. The film opens with a fairly graphic sex scene involving many gay stereotypes and a close up of the male anatomy spinning.

But the only consistent thing throughout the film is its attention to shock value, offending people based on sexuality, race and religion. ‘Bruno’ wants to push everyone’s buttons.


The film aimlessly meanders from scenario to scenario with an incredibly loose plot that allows for Sacha Baron Cohen to travel the world and anger as many people as possible.

He visits the southern states, the Middle East and Los Angeles using different methods to elicit responses from his subjects.’ While in the Middle East he tries to make peace between Israel and Palestine, while in the south he tries to become straight and while in Los Angeles he accomplishes a variety of things including a Brazilian bikini wax and the adoption of a black baby.

Respect has to be given for Cohen’s fearlessness and how far he is willing to push the people in the film. The highlight comes while he hosts a cage fight that ends up with his character approaching sex with another male. The response from those in attendance is less than favorable as beer and chairs are thrown into the cage. The anger and hatred on many of the people appears to be real, but Bruno never focuses on establishing any moral high ground.

The film occasionally allows for the subjects to show their flaws. Too often Cohen smothers these moments with his character’s eccentricities. The film is less about exposing wrongs of society and promoting acceptance and more about Cohen showing off a poor accent and graphic nudity. It works sometimes, remarkably well, but also leaves the viewer with an uncomfortable feeling.

The film works less like a cohesive piece and more like a compilation of YouTube videos, which harkens back to the roots of the character born on Cohen’s ‘Da Ali G Show.’ Bruno was the weakest character in the TV series and Cohen used the success of ‘Borat’ to force a similar film with a weaker central character.

‘Borat’ was held together despite a weak plot and worked well because Cohen was able to strike a balance between his character’s absurdities and the supporting characters ability to share the film. In ‘Bruno,’ Cohen tries too hard to push shock and the responses are forced and disingenuous

The shock value is amped up to such a high degree that the stunts seem fake, which is the downfall for a mockumentary movie. The absurdity of many of the situations distances the film from reality and ruins much of the film. Highlights come when Cohen pumps the breaks on his character and lets the rest of the world show us how crazy it really is, including a scene where parents consent to about everything to make their babies famous.

‘Bruno’ hits and misses from scene to scene and shows you why Cohen is beloved and hated for equal reasons.

Chris McGregor can be reached at 618-536-3311 ext. 275