There's cringe comedy and then there's Borat. The naive Kazakh journalist who cheerfully pulls people into highly compromising situations or into blurting out devastatingly revealing statements is the most successful of guerilla comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's creations.
When Borat's self-titled movie came out 14 years ago in 2006 he became an instant pop culture icon. The awfully funny mockumentary enjoyed many successes including Academy Award nominations, Golden Globe wins, and being banned in Kazakhstan, the Eastern Bloc country Baron Cohen picked for Borat's home town.
Of its more dubious accomplishments the film launched more bad impressions than Austin Powers, ushered in the horror of the "Mankini" and inspired a commercially available fancy dress costume labelled, "Stupid Foreign Reporter." RIP irony.
With Borat's cultural impact being so huge you had to wonder how a sequel could even be possible? The whole comedic premise hinges on people not knowing that the clueless journalist they're talking to is actually a razor-sharp comedian on a mission to expose their hidden truths.
"There was a problem," Borat says, minutes into Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, aka Borat 2, which begins streaming today on Amazon Prime Video. "People make recognise my face. How could I do my secretive mission, if I was famous?"
To solve this conundrum Baron Cohen came up with two answers. One obvious, the other genius.
Firstly, he simply disguised Borat. This leads to an almost Inception level of comedy where you have Baron Cohen disguised as Borat disguised as a racist country singer or a Southern professor, or a cartoonishly anti-Semitic depiction of a Jew.
Where the genius comes in is with his co-star, Bulgarian actor Maria Bakalova. She plays Borat's 15-year-old daughter Tutar and does a lot of the movie's comedic heavy lifting as well as carrying the emotional heft of the film's story.
Story? Emotions? Wait a minute... Is this Borat or not?
Well, yes. But it's a better Borat. This time there's a real story to wrap the Candid Camera style hi-jinks around, making for a much more satisfying film. The plot doesn't detract or take any screen time away from the bits you watch Borat for but instead augments and elevates them.
Rest assured that awful people are routinely exposed as such and the boat isn't just pushed out in the sequel, it's positively turbo-charged and accelerating at full hoon over the horizon.
Some examples: Borat's high-fived for asking how many gypsies he could "finish off" with a canister of BBQ propane gas, an influencer explains to Tutar that to attract a sugar daddy she needs to be "submissive and weak" so that they "like you and give you money," and at a Conservative rally his country singer alter-ego Country Steve gets a raucous crowd of "patriots" singing along, "Journalists, what we gonna do? Chop 'em up like the Saudis do" while throwing Nazi salutes in the air.
There's more, oh my there's so much more, but I don't want to spoil anything here. So much of their power - both comically and impactfully - comes from the shock of surprise.
However it's no spoiler to say that this is without a doubt the most cringe-inducing movie ever made. Paedophilia plays a big part, incest gets more than a few look ins, and I'll just say the phrase "moonblood" and leave it at that.
Sadly, yet wholly appropriately given what it depicts, the movie's great triumph made major news headlines yesterday therefore spoiling the movie's climax for the world.
But its super cringe-inducing, jaw dropping ensnarement of Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's lawyer and friend, with his hands in his pants in an astonishingly well-executed honey trap, deserves to be seen by as many voting Republicans as possible.
That scene, the film's most crucial and important, is entirely carried by Bakalova as she plays Giuliani like a creepy fiddle, leading him from the formalities of news interview to the hotel's bedroom with ease. But this is not her only chance to shine. She constantly shows herself to be just as comedically courageous and boundary pushing as Baron Cohen in a truly fearless performance.
By the end lessons have been learned. Borat finally accepting that women are people too, that daughters are not livestock to be traded away and that yes, he really does love Tutar.
He also uncovers the shocking origin of Covid-19 and, as the film ends, speaks a horrible truth to America.
"The greatest threat to U, S and A is not the Jew," he says over a montage of Americans in MAGA hats Nazi saluting and walking around with military grade weapons. "It is in fact, the Yankee".
Then the music kicks in, an Eastern European version of Grover Washington Jr's sublime funk ballad Just the Two of Us and the words "Now Vote" appear on screen. We can only hope enough people do so America can be saved from itself.