A com­edy for our times

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY MOVIES -

YOU know you’re head­ing into con­tro­ver­sial ter­ri­tory with a Sacha Baron Co­hen movie – and the co­me­dian’s lat­est of­fer­ing, The Dic­ta­tor, de­liv­ers in those stakes.

Cringe­wor­thy and of­fen­sive at times, Co­hen has once again taken his brand of cul­tural satire into un-pc ter­ri­tory with his lat­est od­dball char­ac­ter, Gen­eral Ad­mi­ral Haf­faz Aladeen.

Aladeen rules over the fic­tional North African na­tion of Wadiya with ab­so­lute power, en­sur­ing democ­racy re­mains a for­eign con­cept in his tiny, oil-rich coun­try.

He’s ‘‘the mad dog of Wadiya’’, who sub­sti­tutes his own sur­name for both the words ‘‘pos­i­tive’’ and ‘‘neg­a­tive’’ and rules with such an iron grip that he guns down com­peti­tors in a 100m race, rou­tinely or­ders the death of staff who ques­tion him and is pro­tected by a guard of high-heeled, Ama­zo­nian se­cu­rity staff.

He’s also fac­ing global pres­sure over a sup­pos­edly peace­ful nu­clear en­rich­ment pro­gram.

If that sounds fa­mil­iar, it’s be­cause Gen­eral Aladeen is in­spired by real dic­ta­tors – a lit­tle by late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, a lot by Libya’s for­mer ‘‘mad dog’’ Muam­mar Gaddafi.

The film has a lot to say about the bru­tal­ity of op­pres­sive regimes, while the West cops it for the ‘‘fail­ures’’ of democ­racy. It’s all wrapped up in par­ody and com­edy but no one is safe – women, ho­mo­sex­u­als, Arabs, Asians and Ira­nian leader Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad. They’re all given the Co­hen treat­ment.

‘‘The way Ah­madine­jad dresses is an em­bar­rass­ment for dic­ta­tors. He looks like a snitch on Mi­ami Vice. I mean, why does he never wear a tie? Is ev­ery day in Iran ca­sual Fri­day? What the f***?’’ the Dic­ta­tor laments. De­liv­ered by the same team be­hind Bo­rat and Bruno, the con­tro­versy is ex­pected. But the mes­sage is at times un­der­mined by cheap laughs based on racial stereo­types.

Anna Faris, as Aladeen’s Earth-lov­ing hip­ster love in­ter­est Zoey, gets her fair share of crack­ing one-lin­ers, such as: ‘‘I’m the fur­thest from racist. I haven’t had a white boyfriend since col­lege.’’

The Dic­ta­tor is de­liv­ered well enough for its pro­duc­ers to get away with it and, in un­cer­tain po­lit­i­cal times in the Arab world, its hu­mour is also nec­es­sary.

The Dic­ta­tor is screen­ing now.

Ben Kings­ley (as Tamir) and Sacha Baron Co­hen (Gen­eral Ad­mi­ral Aladeen).

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