Sacha Baron Cohen is no stranger to controversy. He premiered his wankster-rapper character Ali G on Britain’s satirical late night series The ll O’Clock Show in 1998. When he earned his own program on HBO in 2000, Da Ali G Show, he ticked off public figures like Donald Trump and Andy Rooney and duped numerous celebrities and athletes into falling for his comedic antics. He even appeared in the music video for Madonna’s Music. But it wasn’t until 2006’s surprise hit Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan that Cohen broke the U.S in a big way. Grossing over $260 million worldwide made Borat a cultural phenomenon and an instantly recognizable character.
Cohen has since retired Borat, but gave U.S audiences someone else to laugh with—or at, depending on your opinion 2009. Bruno was also repeatedly featured on Da Ali G Show, but he’s the main star here.
When we are first introduced to 19-year-old Bruno he is the larger-than-life host of Austria’s most popular fashion show, Funkyzeit. He attends fashion shows, interviews daft super models and designers and enjoys bizarre, acrobatic sex with his flight attendant boyfriend Diesel. Bruno’s trip to Milan Fashion Week ends in disaster when his custom Velcro suit gets tangled in a backstage curtain during a runway show. Bruno is blacklisted from fashion, loses his job and decides to give up the superficial world of fashion for a more gratifying job—an acting career in Los Angeles.
With his second assistant Lutz by his side, Bruno flies to L.A in search of fame. Talent agent Lloyd Robinson agrees to help Bruno navigate a career and sets him up with a job as an extra on the NBC drama Medium. After his first gig doesn’t pan out, he decides a show about celebrities is his key to success. We’re treated to an awkward guest appearance by Paul Abdul, who is a willing participant of Bruno’s humiliating charade until he offers her a snack. Things keep getting worse for him when a focus group trashes the pilot of A-List Celebrity Max Out with Bruno. Desperate for a big break, he tries everything from contacting the spirit of past lover Milli Vanilli for the most outrageous pantomimed sex scene ever, to a sex tape with a 2008 presidential candidate, to following in the parenting foot steps of Angelina Jolie.
When Bruno decides it’s time to embrace a more traditional lifestyle, he seeks the help of a gay converter who advises him to participate in some masculine activities: visiting a National Guard training center and camping with some of the Alabama locals. When that doesn’t work, he attends a swingers party to awaken his inner heterosexual. Throughout the film’s hour and 22 minutes, Bruno sees the line it’s about to cross and launches itself out of a canon over that line.
In the film’s grand finale, we fast forward eight months to find out Bruno has given up his fashion days for a more conventional character. As the host of Straight Dave’s Man Slammin’ Maxout, Bruno is a camouflage wearing, mustache sporting host of a testosterone drenched cage match. Pandering to a packed house in Arkansas, Straight Dave incites a drunken crowd to follow his chants of “Straight Pride!” The hetero fest doesn’t last long because Lutz returns to challenge Bruno in a cage fight. What results is arguably one of the most outrageous scenes captured on film. Anyone who believes bigotry and hatred isn’t alive and well needs to watch the last 15 minutes of this movie.
Bruno has been criticized for perpetuating negative stereotypes of the gay community. While that may be true, I don’t think this film is intended for people who don’t realize Cohen’s portrayal of a gay man is over the top. Sure—they can enjoy its incredible one-liners and comedic situations, but the real comedy comes from watching everyday people truly believe the world Sacha Baron Cohen has created. Cohen himself can barely stop from laughing in certain scenes, and that makes the experience even more satisfying. As Bruno would say—it’s “grat.”
Bruno is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Although the film is shot as a mock-documentary, the picture quality is much brighter than you would expect. The film has a nice sharpness and contrast that accentuates the diverse textures of Bruno’s costumes. The nighttime scenes show off excellent black levels and night vision shots as well.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound gets its biggest workout thanks to the pulsating Euro-dance soundtrack provided by Erran Baron Cohen. This soundtrack was made to be played on digital surround sound. Occasionally during scene transitions the voice-overs can get buried beneath the bass heavy soundtrack. Crowd noise and other ambient sounds find a way into a few scenes, emphasizing that documentary feel. The majority of the dialogue is clear and crisp—showing off every inflection of Bruno’s flamboyant accent.
The film features subtitles in English, French, Spanish and English DVS. Also noteworthy is that Bruno and Lutz speak German to each other through much of the film, so their dialog is subtitled in English.
Deleted Scenes: (35:13)
Scenes include mind-numbingly vapid interviews with designers and models at fashion shows, a hilarious collection of realtor showings, a job interview at an NBC affiliate in Tyler, Texas, a rally opposing gay marriage and more. I found all of them very entertaining compared to the stale scenes that deserved to get cut from most comedic films.
Extended Scenes: (18:43) Extra content cut from seven scenes featured in the film.
Alternative Scenes (5:43) Similar scenarios appear in the theatrical version. Instead of offering Paula Abdul sushi off the body of a hairy man, Bruno offers it to baseball legend Pete Rose. Former U.N Ambassador John Bolton, President of American Values Gary Bauer and First Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge are lured to participate in a “politician sex tape.” Many of these scenes are as funny, if not funnier, than the ones in the actual film.
An Interview with Lloyd Robinson: (5:32) L.A Talent Agent Lloyd Robinson discusses how he came to appear in Bruno and the aftermath of being duped by Sacha Baron Cohen.
Commentary with Sacha Baron Cohen and Director Larry Charles: Most DVDs have audio commentary with cast and crew members, but Bruno takes it a step further. In key scenes, the film actually pauses to allow for uninterrupted commentary from Sacha and Larry. This adds an extra 26 minutes of commentary to the film and a really nice experience for the viewer.
I remember seeing this movie in theaters when it was released, and at several points during the film I was speechless. That shock factor hasn’t worn off on DVD. It will make you uncomfortable. It might even disgust you. But you will definitely remember it long after the closing credits. Bruno doesn’t break new ground in procuring its side-splitting gags, but it does feel like a fully realized concept born from the twisted—yet brilliant—mind of Sacha Baron Cohen. The bonus features alone make this an excellent addition to any collection. The commentary gives you an unprecedented look at the work that goes into making this type of movie.