The Devil’s Double (2011) dir. Lee Tamahori
Starring: Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Raad Rawi
By Alan Bacchus
After the very public outing of Lee Tamahori's personal problems, it’s so very gratifying to praise his latest film, The Devil’s Double, a Belgian film made far far away from Hollywood. Though it’s not a return to the tour-de-force form of Once Were Warriors, it’s certainly a giant leap above sell outs Die Another Day or xXx 2. The true story of Uday Saddam Hussein, the spoiled rotten son of the former Iraqi dictator, a sadistic loose cannon, whose rampage of torture, rape, and murder in the pre-Gulf War days made him infamous and legendary.
Tamahori seems to channel his own now very personal hedonistic demons into his portrayal of Hussein. He turns this story into a gluttonously biopic cum action film, striving for the same shamelessly over-indulgence as say, Brian De Palma’s Scarface but grounded in the same absurd realities of The Last King of Scotland.
Dominic Cooper is simply delicious in the dual role as Uday as well as his double Latif, who in real life was an old school friend of Uday’s but was kidnapped from his family and held hostage for years to be his political double.
As Uday, Cooper plays his bombastic psychopath with high energy. And as Latif, Cooper is able to dial down his rage into an nail-biting internalization of his emotions. Though the physical difference in character is represented only by Uday’s buck teeth and combed down haircut, Cooper’s subtle differences in performance is more than enough for us to distinguish each character.
While there’s some astonishingly gory violence displayed on screen, Tamahori cranks it up so far, it spills over for comedic purposes. Mondo sex, drugs, bullets and blood taken to its extreme to counterplay the unbelievable disregard for humanity which occurred in real life. However grotesque Tamahori challenges us to treat Uday Hussein as entertainment and succeeds.