Sacha Baron Cohen is the well known rogue auteur with a knack for all things crass, hyperbolic and downright hilarious. His newest flick, The Dictator, is a provocative piece that is slap-bang in tune with the times and tickles you right in the solar plexus — sort of.
In 83 eye-popping minutes, Sacha Baron Cohen produces the perfect cocktail of megalomania, delusion, insult, comical vision and genius lampoonery. In The Dictator (directed by Larry Charles), Baron Cohen plays an off-beat, belligerently bearded despot called Admiral General Aladeen, who has ruled the fictitious oil-rich North African country of Wadiya since he was seven, and personifies all of the bonkers qualities of tyrannical power, including non-stop narcissism, primping egotism and incessant paranoia (think Kim Jong-Il or Muammar Gaddafi meets the Three Stooges).
Delineating the quintessential, psychotic despot with heaps of comical flair, Baron Cohen bumbles hedonistically through the good life — from pervy trysts involving hired starlets (Megan Fox makes a cameo) to the capricious killings he orders for the most innocently perceived insults. His quirky behaviour/cluelessness is reminiscent of Baron Cohen’s previous characters (Borat, Brüno and Ali G) but in The Dictator his narrative is extremely erudite, biting and fairly in tune in its satirisation of current affairs.
From the luxurious comfort of his plush palace, Admiral General Aladeen oppresses his people with a mighty iron-fist. He murders, maims and takes sexual liberties with unimaginable frequency and impunity. But once he lands on American soil to address the United Nations about his nuclear weapons program, Baron Cohen casts a wide and cheeky net on political correctness writ large. After being duped by a conniving aide/henchman (Ben Kingsley), Aladeen must switch identities and finds himself a beardless, lonely commoner in contemporary NYC. There, he encounters a post-modern feminist grocer named Zoey (Anna Faris) who provides endless funny fodder involving lesbianism, sex, underarm hair and a piercing critique of all types of political and cultural mores. He works as a lowly store clerk while looking for a replacement beard and striving for some semblance of recognition and humility (but never fully sheds his despicable ways).
Ultimately, for all his moral imperfections and power-lusting, Aladeen just wants to be loved. The Dictator is an amazing, ludicrous black-humour tour de force and a clever caricature, often insulting and, despite the full-on assault on basically every creed, colour and race, pushes an extreme crudeness that is somehow socially condoned. Swelling with a diabolical dialogue and tonnes of gross references, Sacha Baron Cohen is as committed as they come to ace character development and dark, absurd schtick.
The Dictator is now showing in UK cinemas.
Text: Cody Ross