It is easy to forgive Bruno for recycling the limited plot of Borat. Sacha Baron Cohen stars as a foreigner who ends up coming to the US with an assistant, whom he eventually breaks up with, before reuniting in the end. Surely most people who are interested in Bruno have seen Borat, so that is hardly a spoiler.
Of course, the spoiler is meaningless because what limited narrative carries the film is purely to push the character of Bruno from one place to the next. Borat excelled at exposing the insecurities of American life, letting people be themselves and show their true colors.
The problem with Bruno, an Austrian flamboyantly gay fashion designer, is that he goes out of his way to push people into reacting.
Take his encounter with Ron Paul, former presidential candidate (multiple times over). He sits down for an interview with Bruno, and a light bulb burns out. The two are asked to enter into a side room, where a bed resides. Bruno closes the door and begins to slowly seduce Paul, starting with some small dialogue and lighting candles, before dropping his pants for the camera.
Of course, Paul finally reacts, and a wholly uncomfortable situation is completed. Paul is then filmed in the lobby screaming various expletives, but can anyone blame him? He ignored multiple advances as if they were not happening, going through an entirely uncomfortable situation without so much as word. Only when Bruno goes too far does the reaction occur. The reaction the camera wanted never came, so Cohen keeps pushing to get it.
This one also struggles with separating the staged scenes with those that are not. Borat made it apparent what was done to progress the simple narrative, but Bruno blends staged and non-staged scenes together. This makes certain scenes such as a baby photo shoot interview tough to believe. If the latter is real, child protective services should have been called.
Bruno doesn’t always push or confuse, and sets up some truly hilarious segments. Bruno and his assistant Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten), after a night of drunken partying, find themselves handcuffed to each other in bondage gear, and the key to the handcuffs is missing. They call room service to help them, which is how Bruno works best. The employees react naturally without being forced, kicking them out in one of the film’s best moments, and hopefully someone covered the charge for pay-per-view of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.
Bruno also pushes the R-rating as far as it will go. Within three minutes, pubic hair makes an appearance, and within 10 you’re given a gay sex montage that is better without description. You’ll never look at handheld vacuums or fire extinguishers the same way again.
Amazingly, the MPAA forced around 10 minutes of the film to be cut, although it is hard to imagine after a dancing, swinging, and talking penis appears on screen what could be deemed too offensive. Bruno excels at offending and generating laughs, although it is rarely fair to the people it is trying to bring into the limelight.
It is immediately apparent Bruno was shot digitally, obviously the easier way to handle the faux-documentary style. The translation to Blu-ray, in an AVC encode from Universal, is rough but accurate. Colors are nicely saturated, although at times taking on a neon veneer, and taking the black levels with them.
Noise is a constant struggle, littering backgrounds with artifacts. Detail is typically flat, with the finest definition reserved for a few close-ups. Facial texture remains rare, with that familiar digital sheen that doesn’t look natural, but still representative of the source. Some scenes take a notable dip in quality, such as the talk show, which was apparently not shot in HD.
Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t contain a scene where Bruno goes ballistic and begins exploding things, or this DTS-HD mix might have something to work with. This is front-loaded with zero notable separation in any channel. The techno score does bleed well into the rears, but dialogue is all contained in the center. A brief moment of gunfire during a hunting session is still flat. Adequate considering the source.
Deleted, extended, and alternate scenes are the focal point of the bonus features. In total, there are 21 of them spread across all three sections, with many of them containing laughs. A fantastic enhanced commentary lets director Larry Charles and Cohen (out of character) discuss the shoot, and amazingly, confirm the baby modeling section is true, although that is still hard to fathom. They pop-up occasionally to stop the film so they can discuss certain scenes in length, adding around 18 minutes to the movie.
An interview with Lloyd Robinson has the talent agent from the movie explaining how he was duped. BD-Live support is generic.