Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 12:49 UK

Film review: Bruno

By Genevieve Hassan
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Bruno
Bruno arrived in Leicester Square wearing his own take on the Queen's guardsman uniform

Sacha Baron Cohen's latest alter ego, Austrian fashionista Bruno, arrived for the premiere of his film to a trumpet fanfare of disco classic I Will Survive.

Dressed in a bearskin and his own take on the Queen's guardsman's uniform - including a sleeveless jacket and frighteningly tight hot pants - he told the crowd: "This is the most important movie starring a gay Austrian since Terminator 2."

Inside the cinema, he greeted the audience and said he hoped the film would undo "all the negative stereotyping of the gay community done by Milk" - referring to Sean Penn's Oscar-winning turn as gay rights activist Harvey Milk earlier this year.

His controversy-baiting comments set the tone for the film, which is clearly intended to shock and amuse in equal measure.

Like Cohen's previous hit, Borat, the film shows Bruno interacting with "real" people, unaware they are the stars of the show - a feat which must be difficult considering how well-known the comedian is now.

Bruno and his adopted son

Bruno finds himself shunned in Austria when, reporting from a fashion show, the character's Velcro suit becomes stuck to a rail of clothes and he falls on to the stage wrapped in a curtain.

So in a bid to turn himself around, he goes to Los Angeles to try to become the "the biggest Austrian superstar since Hitler".

And that is it, as far as plot is concerned. The rest of the film goes from one stunt to the next, following all of Bruno's failed attempts at trying to get famous.

Among other things, we see him try his hand at acting; adopting an African baby; becoming a chat show host (complete with unsuspecting celebrities); trying to get kidnapped by terrorists; becoming heterosexual and going to a swingers party.

There are some very funny moments, including a brilliant scene where, while trying to bring about peace in the Middle East, two rival camps have to explain to Bruno that Hamas and hummus are not the same thing - but both agree at the same time that hummus is a good thing.

Elsewhere, the reaction of a test-screen audience to the pilot of his US TV show will have you watching through your fingers if you feel uncomfortable about full-frontal male nudity - or conversations about bleaching your intimate areas.

Sacha Baron Cohen as Bruno in London's Leicester Square

Throughout, Cohen is almost heroically reckless with regard to his own personal safety. In one scene, he is chased down the street by a crowd of people in the Middle East after dressing like a Hassidic Jew in hot pants.

And, at an anti-gay cage fight in Arkansas, he ends up in an all-male love scene performed to an increasingly angry mob who end up throwing metal chairs at him.

The comedian has obviously come away unscathed from all of these incidents, although producer Dan Mazer says Cohen was arrested in three continents while making the film and saw "some things no heterosexual male should ever have to see".

Bruno pushes the boundaries further than Borat ever did.

Sometimes you question whether he has finally crossed the line into offensive bad taste - and, latterly, whether you were right to laugh at it - but the audience all seemed to guffaw and groan in the right places. They even gasped in horror when they were supposed to.

It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea and if you are easily shocked this certainly won't be for you, but some will find it outrageously hilarious.

Bruno is released in UK cinemas on 10 July



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