Brüno (Blu-ray)

Bruno is a provocative and confrontational work of cinema; thankfully, it also happens to be hilariously funny. Essentially a gay Borat 2, Baron Cohen and his production team revisit the fertile ground of aggravating unsuspecting individuals. This time, however, Baron Cohen’s assumed persona is that of “like, totally” uber-gay Austrian fashionista Bruno.

Following a similar outline to his previous film, we follow the lead character in what is essentially a series of sketches wherein naifs are forced to question their preconceptions until they burst. To Bruno, everyone is fair game – celebrities, TV studio audiences, senators, PR agents, swingers, rednecks and even Islamic terrorists. Unquestionably, this is a far more extreme outing than Borat’s, and most audiences will be watching through their hands or flinching from some of the more shocking sights on display. But the same weaknesses the occasionally plagued Borat are also on show here – numerous bridging scenes that purport to be genuine are clearly anything but; the contrived “funny foreign accent” inflections become a mite too repetitive; and the “storyline” is merely a frame upon which to hang the various awkward encounters. Jokes about fellow Austrians Hitler and Schwarzennegger are perhaps over-done too.

These quibbles over plot or continuity soon fall to the wayside however, as the set-piece stunts are genuinely breathtaking, both in their intensity and context. Having lost the anonymity that was afforded him with Borat, Baron Cohen clearly has had to work harder to not be recognised this time round, and yet his new-found celebrity status is cleverly integrated with some well placed A-list cameos. Bruno may be “harder” than Borat (if you’ll excuse the pun), but overall somehow suffers from an element of déjà-vu. Baron Cohen is clearly a master of bad taste, a very brave and unique comedic voice, and he should be applauded for his achievements & dedication to his work. That being said, the brisk running time of 82 minutes was more than long enough to make a lasting impression, and perhaps a signal for England’s most successful comedian to move onto pastures new.

EXTRAS | Reviewed by Stuart O'Connor **** There's some good news and some bad news. First the bad news: remember that interview that Bruno did with LaToya Jackson, which was pulled from the film's theatrical cut when her crazy brother died? Well, it hasn't been included in the Blu-ray version of the film. But the good news is that it does appear (although in a shortened version) in the deleted scenes. And as well as the Jackson scene, there's a lot more alternative, deleted and extended scenes - more than an hour's worth, in fact, including more of those casting interviews with mothers desperate to get their babies on the road to stardom, and an interview with the US agent, Lloyd Robinson. But the stand-out feature is an excellent "enhanced" commentary with Sacha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles. It is a normal commentary track, but occasionally the pair pop up picture-in-picture and even pause the film to discuss in detail particular aspects of a scene. It's unusual to see Baron Cohen as himself for a change, as he tells how he actually broke a finger in one particular scene, and how he came clsoe to being arrested on several occasions. It's worth buying the Blu-ray for this alone.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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