SACHA Baron Cohen has made a name for himself as a purveyor of shocking, often taboo-breaking comedy with the likes of Ali G, Borat and Bruno. His latest effort still seeks to push buttons, offend sensibilities and induce wince-inflected guffaws but this time with a wannabe blockbuster sensibility.
His latest character creation is Nobby, a loud-mouthed football hooligan and father of nine who wants nothing more than to reunite with his long-lost brother Sebastian (Mark Strong) from whom he was separated at a young age. As it turns out his brother is now a skilled MI6 agent. After Nobby ruins one of Sebastian’s top secret missions, the two of them are forced on the run from the government all the while trying to figure out how to stop a worldwide attack.
The plot is equal parts ridiculous and nonsensical, forcing suspension of disbelief beyond breaking point with twists and turns that even the most far-fetched of past Bond outings wouldn’t have touched. But that’s also beside the point of the film. So what exactly is the point, then? Well, it’s all about just how crass, lewd and in-your-face the film can get away with being.
Although some of the gags land well enough, you’d have to try pretty hard not to laugh at an unforgettably outrageous scene where the brothers use the inside of an elephant as a hiding place, it’s this obsession with ridiculing anyone it sets its sights on that changes it from heartily joshing around to just being needlessly mean-spirited.
Being invited to laugh at how ridiculous Cohen is being opposite his straight-faced co-star – to his credit, he’s never been afraid to make himself look like an utter idiot on-screen – is one thing but there’s something singularly rancid when the repeated butt of a joke is people being accidentally infected with HIV-Aids.
Cohen’s previous work, however brash, had something of a satirical edge, making a point about people’s preconceived notions and fears about how others should live their lives. But sadly that witty backbone has been lost in Cohen’s foray into silly, vulgar blockbuster territory which takes fat-shaming, xenophobia and class ridicule to new levels. Lewdness is a valid form of comedy but, however bold in may be in its attempt to shock you into laughing, this is a bad taste that’s hard to wash out.