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Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

SACHA Baron Cohen’s follow-up to the ultra-successful Borat is as inspired as it is lazy, as funny as it is offensive, and as fearless as its predecessor. But it’s also much less successful.

Part of the reason for this lies in the fact that Brüno, his latest comic creation, is much less endearing than his Kazakhstan reporter.

But it’s also due to the fact that the comedy this time around is even more provocative and a little more staged.

Where once Cohen felt like a trailblazer who tip-toed the boundary of good taste, it now feels like he’s a victim of his own excess and struggling to keep the bad taste in check.

The plot, too, is a little too similar in style to his Borat adventure. After being thrown out of the fashion world and sacked from his TV show Funkyzeit, openly gay Austrian reporter Brüno heads to Los Angeles to reinvent himself and become a big, gay star.

As with Borat, Brüno has a helper in tow… on this occasion love-struck sidekick Lutz (Hammarsten) and like before he sets up interviews with plenty of “unsuspecting” targets.

But just what or who Cohen is attempting to satirise this time around isn’t quite so clear. His depiction of gay stereotypes is likely to offend people of either persuasion, while pot-shots at Middle Eastern politics and celebrity obsession are much less acutely observed.

It’s almost as if Cohen is provoking us to see just how much we’ll laugh before saying “enough is enough”. The big question this time around is just how outrageous will the paying public allow him to be before someone catches on?

That’s not to say Brüno isn’t without its moments – whether hilarious or jaw-droppingly outrageous.

Successful skits include his attempts to get into acting by hijacking an episode of Medium, his hunting expedition in the US wilderness and his spiritual reunion with a member of Milli Vanilli.

But for every good gag, there’s one that doesn’t work, or feels over-milked.

An extended sequence involving Brüno’s adoption of a black baby and their subsequent relationship outstays its welcome and frequently feels staged, while his gate-crashing of a swinger’s party – while amusing – feels like a set-up from the outset.

A [literally] painful sequence at a cage fighting night in middle America is also difficult to watch and pretty much epitomises the nature of the comedy this time around. You’ll be laughing in spite of the various forms of depravity that unfold on-screen, giving rise to the suspicion afterwards – for anyone who cares to think about it – that the joke this time is very much on us.

Perhaps in light of that, Cohen’s brand of comedy is in need of a rethink.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 90mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: November 9, 2009