OBSERVE AND REPORT
Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Seth Rogen,
Anna Faris, Michael Pena, Ray Liotta
Director: Jody Hill
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 87 Minutes
Release Date: September 22, 2009
ďThe world has no use for another scared man. Right now, the world needs a f*cking hero.Ē
I donít think Iíve ever seen a comedy more psychotic than Observe and Report. I wouldnít so much call it a dark comedy, but rather a hilarious movie about a seriously troubled individual. I can definitely say this, itís a bold movie in that it goes places not even traditional dark comedies have ventured to before.
If youíre familiar with the previous work of writer/director Jody Hill, then you probably know what youíre in for. If not, all I can say is proceed with caution. The reason being is simple; Hillís approach to comedy is, if anything, NOT for all tastes.
Hill first came onto the filmmaking circuit a couple of years back with The Foot Fist Way, a low budget indie comedy that premiered at Sundance and basically went unnoticed. However, it did garner a small cult following, thanks in large part to producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. It also garnered some recognition for its star, Danny McBride, who has since gone on to deliver insanely funny supporting work in such films as Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express.
Hillís next project was the hilariously edgy HBO series, Eastbound and Down. The show focused on a once red hot MLB pitcher (McBride, once again) who recently hit rock bottom and was kicked out of the league following a series of incidents that seemed loosely inspired by that of John Rocker. Itís kind of like what The Wrestler would be if it was a comedy and had an extremely unlikable character as its focus.
And thatís basically what Hill special quality has been in all of his work. He places you in character environments one would normally not want to inhabit for any reason, and somehow manages to craft a zany and bizarrely funny in and around these troubled individuals. If Martin Scorsese had directed the movie, the final result would end up a lot like, well, Taxi Driver, which this is very much the comedy equivalent of.
Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen) is the overly dedicated head security guard at the Forest Ridge Mall (I should go ahead and point out that this movie makes me forget Paul Blart: Mall Cop ever happened). Heís never shy about exercising his power when it comes to patrolling the mall. And that wouldnít be a problem if he wasnít always going a little too far in his duties.
But Ronnie sees a real chance to prove himself when a pervert surfaces in the mall parking lot one day and begins flashing himself at numerous patrons. Since Ronnieís job has never seen any real excitement, he considers the chance to take down the flasher as a dream come true. He not only sees the incident as an opportunity to become a real police officer, but also as a chance to impress the girl of his dreams, make up counter girl Brandi (Anna Faris), who has become the flasherís latest victim.
However, the one thing keeping Ronnie from achieving these goals is, well, Ronnie himself. Heís a sociopathic, bipolar, somewhat racist, trigger happy buffoon who is a hero only in his own world. This is conveyed brilliantly during a sequence where he tries to assist an actual detective named Harrison (Ray Liotta) in questioning several mall employees following a robbery, and ends up getting both of them nowhere thanks to his ineptitude.
Though the movie can be a bit uneven at times as far as the jokes are concerned, the ones that succeed are true intense gut-busters. A scene where Ronnie gets into a verbal war with an kiosk worker (the hilarious Aziz Ansari), contains not one, but TWO of the funniest lines Iíve heard in any movie this year, which for obvious reasons I wonít quote. And the very following scene, where Detective Harrison chews out Ronnie after screwing up his investigation made me want to stand up and cheer for two reasons; Ronnie has become quite unlikable by this point in the movie, and itís always great to see Liotta when heís in super-angry mode.
Of course, it would be hard to review the movie without mentioning the one scene that had everyone talking. Iím referring to the infamous date rape scene in which Ronnie takes advantage of Brandi following a dinner date where she eagerly downed some of his bipolar medication along with countless shots of alcohol. It shocked a lot of people, but in my mind, such a scene makes sense in a Jody Hill comedy, where the lead character is always as clueless as it gets.
For Seth Rogen, whose name alone pretty much got this movie green lit, this is truly something of a departure from his previous roles, which were mostly that of the likeable slacker. And although there are bits of charm to Ronnie in a few scenes, the character is for the most part a violent and mentally disturbed individual who is completely oblivious to the chaotic effect of his actions since he always believes heís doing the right thing. Even though itís quite a revealing performance from Rogen, itís not his absolute best simply because he delivered that later in the year in Judd Apatowís Funny People.
What I appreciate most about Observe and Report is the simple fact that it exists in an all-too-safe movie climate. The notion that a major studio backed up an insane dark comedy with a mostly unlikable lead character as its focus gives me hope that not all is dead with the studio system. Iím a huge advocate a movies that take risks and as far as comedies go, this one takes every risk imaginable.
Warner delivers another fantastic Blu-ray presentation. Though the set pieces are somewhat limited (as most of the action takes place in and around the mall) the movie is actually terrifically shot thanks in to cinematographer Tim Orr, whose past work includes all of director David Gordon Greenís films. Color and image detail are both in pure knockout form in the 1080p, and both day and night sequences get outstanding treatment.
The Dolby TrueHD mix really delivers a mean punch. If youíre expecting a dialogue-oriented comedy, you may be surprised by the number of scenes involving gunfire and physical violence, all of which sounds nothing short of fantastic. The movie also features a dynamic soundtrack lineup, which I have a feeling will become a Jody Hill trademark. Tracks by the likes of The Band, Queen and The Yardbirds are played in pivotal sequences and light up the sound channels in the process. Dialogue delivery is also top-notch, as expected!
Warner does justice to this Blu-ray release with a nice lineup of extras, which you wonít find on the standard DVD release. To start with, thereís a cool Picture-in-Picture commentary, and a funny one at that, with writer/director Jody Hill and stars Seth Rogen and Anna Faris. Thereís also numerous behind the scenes featurettes, including ďBasically TrainingĒ, ďSeth Rogen and Anna Faris: UnscriptedĒ, as well as a Forest Ridge Mall Security Recruitment Video. Lastly, thereís Additional Scenes, one of the funniest Gag Reels Iíve seen in a long time and BD-Live content.
Though Observe and Report is clearly not for all tastes (in fact you will probably either love it or hate it), I really do find it to be something of a brave film in that rarely has there been a comedy with this sort of dark edge to it. For me, itís a comedy to fully admire, and if youíre not afraid to laugh at things you wouldnít normally laugh at, the you should definitely check this one out!