Brüno (18)

2.00

All in the worst possible taste

How far can you go? Put that question to Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen's flamboyantly gay Austrian fashionista, and he would most likely provide you with an explicit demonstration involving sex toys and human orifices.

That far. Now the subject of his own mockumentary, Brüno doesn't so much push the envelope as tear it into squares and use it as bog-roll. There are provocations here so inflam-matory they make you wonder how on earth the cast and crew managed to escape with their lives. Like the scene in which a half-naked Brüno parades through an orthodox neighbourhood in Israel and then has to flee a posse of furious Hasidic Jews. Or the scene inwhich he shows off his black baby ('I called him OJ') to a daytime TV audience of outraged African-Americans. Orthe scene in which he goes hunting in thewoods with a trio of rifle-toting good ol' boys whom he tries to seduce in theirtentsafter lights out. The busiest person on the set, you suspect, was Baron Cohen's getaway driver.

This might be a more pertinent question: How far can you go and still be funny? Baron Cohen and his team of writers and producers scored a huge anddeserved hit with their2006comedyBorat, setting the bar of obnoxiousness so high as to seem in constant danger of breaking their necks. Yet Borat, for all his crude antipathies towards Jews, Gypsies, gays and women, was adifferent creature, venturing so deeply into cluelessness and gaucherie that hecameout the other side looking amiable. He was a badly-dressed bumpkin whose journey of discovery to America put a whole new slant on the innocent abroad. What made him so funny was that he managed to be offensive and weirdly charming at the same time.

That trick has not been repeated here. Brüno is possessed of something, but it's definitely not charm. Where Borat seemed ingenuous, Brüno is altogether more knowing, and his avowed career plan – 'I wanna be a shtar in a huge Hollywood movie' – puts us on alert. For starters, he's already got his ownTV fashion show ('Funkyzeit mit Brüno'), so his subsequent naivety about the media – on which the whole comedy is premised – feels utterly bogus. The story begins with Brüno's ostracism from the fashion world after he misbehaves at one of the shows: or, as he puts it, 'For the second time in a century the world had turned on Austria's greatest man, just because he tried something different.' His crypto- Nazi leanings is another unpleasant little dab of character that's designed to alienate. And so, like many a talentless half-wit before him, he heads out for Los Angeles in enthusiastic pursuit of celebrity, accompanied by a slavish personal assistant, Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten), who happens to love him. In this regard he is surely unique.

Brüno, the film, shares with Borat a fascination with the grotesque distortinglens of fame, with what people, mostly Americans, are prepared to do and say if they know a camera is trained on them. One-time popstar Paula Abdul, for example, is tricked into talking about her charity work, but when she's been invited to sit upon a Latino gardener ('Mexican chair people,' Brüno styles them) for that interview, pieties such as'You give love to other people' have ahollow ring. Brüno, the star, however, keeps scrambling our responses, because he is often more contemptible than the people he sets up. Somehow, hewangles an interview in a hotel room with one-time US Presidential candidate Ron Paul, who eventually storms outofthe place, complaining, quite truthfully, that his interviewer made a pass at him. I found his affronted reaction perfectly understandable. Later, Brüno visits a pastor who specialises in 'converting' gays to the ways of straightness, and seeks advice as to what heterosexual activity he might safely pursue. The pastor's suggestion that he lift weights – 'there's nothing like building up your muscles around other men who aren't gay' – is abjectly laughable, but hisevident sincerity in wanting to help makes him more sympathetic to us than his secret tormentor.

Occasionally, Brüno's wilful ignorance hits the funny bone dead-on. On a visit totheMiddle East he sets up a dialogue between a hard-line Israeli and his Palestinian oppo, with himself in the role of peacemaker (he's heard that's what celebrities do). Typically, Brüno manages to confuse Hamas with hummus, andsoonobliges the Israeli to point out, with amazing forbearance, 'We both agree that hummus is very healthy.' They both agree, announces Brüno – job done! But the dreadful 'peace' song he then sings for them isn't funny at all, and the way he gets the enemies to join hands is horribly embarrassing. (I watched much of this film through latticed fingers). The scene illustrates a notable, and regrettable, weakness in the film-makers' mindset – it's the point at which humour edges almost into nihilism. Nothing has any meaning outside of mockery; ours is a world of vanity and gullibility, goes the thinking, so let's just keep poking a stick at it. There's something joyless about this perspective, and it's oddly exhausting, too. Some might find the contrivance ingenious – how, for instance, did they manage to get Brünoinside a swingers' orgy? Was that dominatrix for real? But when you start puzzling over the the complicity involved the joke withers and dies.

This isn't to say that Brüno will not beamassive hit. There's an appetite for 'out-there' comedy, and the 18 certificate the film has been awarded will tip the wink to audiences: if you thought Borat (only a 15) was outrageous... Of course, there are laughs, and if audacity were the only principle by which film-making achievement were judged the movie would be a knockout. But having groaned and winced through most of its 83 minutes I couldn't wait to get out of there.

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game