There’s plenty wrong with Lee Tamahori’s The Devil’s Double, but what’s right with it is Dominic Cooper. The British actor (The History Boys, The Dutchess, Mamma Mia!, An Education, Tamara Drewe) plays both Saddam Hussein’s son Uday Hussein and Latif Lahia, the man forced to be his double. Based on Lahia’s memoir, the film takes some loose facts and then runs wildly into male-fantasy land. This is the sexy-music-video-violent-video-game take on Hussein’s regime and its byproduct: a psychotic son that rapes, kills and snorts copious amounts of coke without thinking twice.
But thanks to Cooper’s convincing dual performance, the film is watchable. Well, the only thing worth watching is Cooper. It’s a testament to his talent–which we’ll see more of in Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22, as arms inventor Howard Stark), My Week with Marilyn (November 4, as photographer Milton Greene), Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012, as Henry Sturgess)–that this film functions at all.
The way Tamahori glamorizes violence here is a far cry from the honest grit of his breakout 1994 New Zealand drama Once Were Warriors.Devil’s Double won’t necessarily garner Cooper an Oscar nomination, but it’s putting him in line. Cooper agreed with Tamahori that the film “shouldn’t be a detailed, accurate biographical account of these people or this moment in history.” It certainly won’t be remembered as such when it hits theaters July 29.