Observe And Report

Director    Jody Hill
Starring    Seth Rogen, Michael Pena, Ray Liotta, Anna Faris, Jesse Plemons
Release    10 APR (US) 24 APR (UK)    Certificate 15
3 stars


3rd May 2009

Another month, another mall cop comedy. Or is it? The trailer does show current King of Comedy Seth Rogen sporting his shortest haircut ever, lusting over Anna Faris and kicking seven shades of shit out of pesky skateboarding yobs in quite the comical fashion. But look a little closer and Observe And Report is a disturbing study of the violence, ugliness, sexism and racism of the regular American Joe...albeit one with serious mental problems. Writer/director Jody 'The Foot Fist Way' Hill said he wanted to make a comedy version of Taxi Driver - it's pretty safe to say he's succeeded.

Rogen is mall security gua..., sorry, Head of Mall Security, Ronnie Barnhardt. He's a bipolar, borderline psychopathic gun nut who, like Paul Blart before him, takes his jobsworth position extremely seriously. When not attempting to woo slutty cosmetics girl Brandi (Faris), he's having fun with a taser, drinking free coffee and firing off a few rounds at the gun range. But when a flasher starts waving his cock and balls around in the car park, Ray Liotta's big shot Detective Harris steps in to investigate, much to the disdain of Ronnie and his mall cop compatriot; a Mexican with a lisp, fat Asian twins and a reluctant ginger kid.

So far it sounds like quite the riot, right? A typical Seth Rogen vehicle for crudeness and ad-libbing? However, the storyline of a pervert terrorising shoppers gets pushed aside as we delve into the protagonist's psyche, Travis Bickle-style, and we start to realise that Observe And Report is in fact a somewhat dark and unsettling film. You'll find yourself wondering, 'Can I actually laugh at that?'

There's the odd occasion where you'll feel that morally, perhaps you shouldn't giggle, but you probably will anyway. Feel free to snigger at a Polaroid of a penis accompanied by the line, 'This picture of a penis doesn't cheer me up', and Ronnie and his right hand man Dennis (Michael Pena) chasing down a scruffy teen in their electric buggy and smashing a skateboard over his noggin. Now, here's where your laughter will turn into an awkward chuckle followed by stunned silence: Ronnie and Dennis indulging in heavy drug use and watching Ronnie and the twins lovingly clean their guns whilst discussing better guns. But the most unnerving and awkward scene is tantamount to date rape. She is kind of awake but still...she's drunk and covered in sick. Um...

Soon enough you'll find yourself pining for the lovable Fozzy Bear lookie-likey of Knocked Up and Zack And Miri, not this deranged mental case we see before us. Remember that chubby, hairy slacker we're used to? You'll find none of that here. Ronnie Barnhardt's one violent motherfucker. Nevertheless, it's nice to finally see Seth Rogen trying something new and challenging. Combined with weight loss, the Apatow-directed comedy-drama Funny People (released later this summer) and The Green Hornet (out next year), we might have seen the last of the chunky, bearded, pot-smoking Seth Rogen we all came to love.

Observe And Report might become known as 'that other mall cop movie' but it will never be confused with Kevin James' kid-friendly effort. While it is difficult to ignore the similarities with Paul Blart (disillusioned fat men on medication, who live with their mothers and punch waaay above their weight in the fairer sex department), Observe And Report deserves more attention and respect. Jody Hill is using his 15 certificate to the fullest. The jokes may be sicker but at least they go further than a fat man falling over. We could also be witnessing the turning point of Seth Rogen's career. Now, if only Ronnie had shaved himself a Mohawk and shot a pimp who looked like Harvey Keitel...

More:  Comedy  Violence  Sex  Mall Cops
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