Review: 'Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm' cooks up more outrageous and shocking political satire
Courtesy of Prime Video
If anyone could provide a unique take on the year 2020, who else could do it justice other than Kazakhstan’s top journalist Borat Sagdiyev? When we last saw Borat in 2006, the country was in a much different place, socially and politically. Now enduring the deadliest pandemic in over a century, one of the most contentious elections of recent memory, and folks denying science based on their own personal beliefs, it seems ripe for Sacha Baron Cohen, as Borat, to input his own commentary on the world around him.
Filmed in secret throughout the year, though Cohen made headlines over the summer for crashing conservative rallies and duping senior government officials into hoax interviews (the likes of which are guaranteed to break the internet) “Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm” or more specifically, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” is a hilarious endeavor not far removed from the hijinks and antics of its predecessor. This time around most know who Borat is, so the filmmakers had to get creative with the hidden camera antics and it still baffles me people can get duped by Cohen. Then again, the whole shtick of the character is to expose the ignorance of American culture, so perhaps it’s not that hard to believe.
Timed to the forthcoming election, Cohen and crew worked overtime to get the film ready for release, which features one jaw-dropping final sequence that’ll have audiences in disbelief (how they managed to keep its contents secret is a mystery). That scene makes it apparent director Jason Woliner wanted to go bigger than 2006’s “Borat” with the stunts considerably gutsier, including several where I genuinely feared for the actor’s life. Cohen isn’t new to this game and if anyone can get themselves out of a sticky situation (for example, crashing a conservative event where Mike Pence is the keynote speaker in a white KKK robe) it’s the master of disguise.
Amid the unsuspecting patrons who Cohen manages to trick, there is a thin narrative driving the film. Even though mockumentary “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” was a big success in the United States, it brought shame to Kazakhstan which became the laughing stock across the globe. Sentenced to hard labor in the gulag for eternity, Borat is now seen as public enemy number one, but with the election of Donald Trump (or “McDonald Trump” as Borat would call him), the disgraced journalist is enlisted by his government to make peace with the U.S. by offering a prized chimpanzee to Mike Pence.
Once back in the states, it’s discovered that Borat has a fifteen-year-old daughter (played by relatively unknown actress Mara Bakalova) who is essentially written to help fill in the gaps Cohen can’t divvy out. A major subplot of “Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm” is how famous the Kazakhstan journalist became and therefore must come up with unique disguises to hide in plain sight. There are still moments where Borat interacts with real people, including a five-day stint where he shacks up with right-wing Q-Anon addicted junkies who think COVID-19 is a hoax and that Hilary Clinton drinks the blood of children. One has to wonder how clueless these folks are or live under a rock to not recognize the character, but judging by their digs and media diet, it’s not implausible.
Though none of the stunts come anywhere close to the Nebraska cage match, “Subsequent Moviefilm” packs a fair amount of COVID-related zingers, and skewers Alt-Right extremists, which is always welcome. But does Borat say anything in 2020 that he didn’t already put out in 2006? Not entirely. That doesn’t make it any less outrageous, it’s just not as fresh this time around. More like revisiting an uncle for the first time in 14 years. Still, Cohen is absolutely relentless, a comedy maniac who puts his life on the line to make us laugh and never compromises the mission.
Guaranteed to make headlines for ensuring defamation lawsuits, it’s not shocking that “Subsequent Moviefilm” captures the zeitgeist of our moment so close to election day. The movie ends with the tagline “Now vote or be execute” as if it were this educational film shown in classrooms about the evils lurking in our world and how we have the power to make a change. Oddly enough, it feels quite fitting that a fictional, beloved, character such as Borat would be the one to help encourage voting at this late stage of the game. He understands our democracy is at stake and wishes the people of Kazhakstan were afforded the same luxury to elect their own leaders. You could look at “Subsequent Moviefilm” as a call to action because we’re not that far removed from the voter suppression that occurs in Kazakhstan and if we don’t use our voice to make a difference now, we could all be in trouble.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan debuts on Amazon Prime Video, Friday October 23rd.