A genuinely funny black comedy

PUBLISHED: 15:02 23 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:08 07 September 2010

Observe and Report (15) Director Jody Hill Starring Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, Michael Pena, Ray Liotta and Celia Weston 87 mins Four stars As I was leaving the cinema, I turned to the man next to me and we both said, Wow. His wow was because he could n

Observe and Report (15) Director Jody Hill

Starring Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, Michael Pena, Ray Liotta and Celia Weston

87 mins

Four stars

As I was leaving the cinema, I turned to the man next to me and we both said, "Wow."

His "wow" was because he could not believe anyone could make a film so bad. Mine was because I was thrilled about witnessing a genuine and wildly funny black comedy in an era dedicated to gross out.

This is a real audience splitter.

It is quite simply the darkest comedy featuring a big star in quite some time.

It is the kind of film that people will storm out of raging about how anyone can pass that off as entertainment - which will serve them right for only looking at the star rating and not reading the review.

That such a transgressive comedy should share a basic premise with cuddly family fun Paul Blart: Mall Cop is a bizarre irony.

Like Blart, Ronnie Barnhardt (Rogen) is a mall security guard who takes his job way too seriously and when crime - in the shape of a flasher - threatens his domain, he sees it as his opportunity to be the righteous protector. It's just that his way of delivering justice involves extreme levels of violence.

Ronnie is the most violent comic lead character since Adam Sandler around the time of Happy Gilmore.

Rogen is a comic performer who can sometimes rub me up the wrong way. But he's very skilful here.

He never makes Ronnie likeable but you get just enough insight into what he's about to make him "followable" at least at arm's length. This might be Rogen's Punch Drunk Love.

I hated writer/director Hill's last film, The Foot Fist Way, because he seemed to have a style that was all observation and no comedy. He is constantly disconcerting the audience.

He does character comedy, but with characters who aren't fully formed. The result is like a cross between David Brent and Travis Bickle.

Hill's favoured comedy subject is male anger and borderline sociopaths who employ self-help psychobabble as a method to fix a positive self-image in their heads, no matter what they are doing.

I am guessing Observe and Report will be a cult movie even before it has flopped in cinemas.

The end credits tell us that it is a carbon neutral production. Given the amount of ugliness it is pumping out, I'd be more concerned about being karmic neutral.


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