Equally as offensive as the movie's smorgasbord of smut and violence is the lingering whiff of colonial-era orientalism, a Western predilection for regarding Eastern cultures as innately idle, lascivious, irrational, and thus ripe for intervention.
Though Cooper plays look-a-like characters, it is always clear which of the two men is on screen at any moment, including those moments when Yahia is impersonating Uday. That says a lot about the inner wellspring of great acting.
Lee Tamahori's film, freely adapted from Yahia's life story, captures the temptations of a life without rules and without limits, and the horrors of the trap a life lived at the whim of a psychopath truly is.
Those who admired Mr. Cooper's work as Peter Sarsgaard's dashing friend and business partner in "An Education" -- I called it "a supporting performance with star quality" -- could not have imagined his achievement here.
You leave Lee Tamahori's film thoroughly convinced that Uday Hussein was a monster. In all likelihood, you entered the movie with the same certainty. This raises the question: What was the point, exactly?
A rocket-powered thriller rife with scenery chewing and fast-and-loose revisionism that could, by dint of sheer sensationalism, break the Iraq movie curse and rack up some serious B.O. around the world.