Observe and Report

by Rick Grant

Grade: B / Rated R / 86 min
From the twisted cinematic mind of Jody Hill this black comedy was born to be shocking and darkly funny. Hill’s script was a great vehicle for rising star Seth Rogen, who has lost even more weight than he appears in the movie. Mixing violence with comedy requires a delicate balance of scene-craft. For the most part, Hill pulled it off 90 % of the time, bolstered by a stellar supporting cast including Anna Faris as Brandi, the hard drinking mall slut.
Rogen’s rent-a-cop character Ronnie Barnhardt is bipolar and takes medication to keep himself under control. He’s a wannabe cop, who, in his own mind, upgrades the mall security guard to a new level of importance. Yes, even on his meds, Barnhardt has delusions of grandeur.
When a pervert flashes Brandi, Barnhardt overreacts trying to protect his secret lover. He accuses his gaggle of nerdy fellow officers of not being diligent. Lines uttered by Barnhardt such as, “You’re twins, when one of you is killed, I’ll have the other one as a spare,” are typical of Hill’s black humor.
Enter real Detective Harrison, (Ray Liotta) who arrives on the scene of the flashing. He immediately clashes with Barnhardt, who acts like an idiot. This personality conflict setups later gags with Detective Harrison, as the flasher caper leads to a showdown. Meanwhile, someone is robbing the mall after hours and Barnhardt is on the case.
Hill never lets the tempo of weirdness slow down presenting unexpected scenes and surprises. This makes the movie unpredictable and interesting. Not all the gags are haha funny, but they have a darkly comedic undertone.
After Barhardt accidently grabs a date with Brandi, (she forgot about it) he goes off his meds and his bipolar condition comes out full force. A bunch of skateboarders had been getting on Barnhardt’s nerves so he chases them down with his stupid-looking electric security-mobile and smashes them senseless..
Now, post-meds, Barnhardt is having delusions of being a real cop. So he applies to enter the police academy. He passes all his preliminary tests but fails his psychology interview. The psychologist dubbed him a “dangerous delusional psychopath.” Oh well, he has his security weapons-mace, stungun, and baton, which he uses skillfully.
This is easily Rogen’s best work so far. Hill’s script was tailor-made for Rogen’s off-kilter style as Barnhardt. In one scene he dispatches a gang of thugs with his fists and baton and hauls in a kid crack dealer to the police.
Young underachieving men will identify with Rogen’s Barnhardt character. He acts out the frustrations of youth that most young people could only fantasize about. The scene in which he takes on Detective Harrison and a bunch of cops is an example of Barnhardt’s outrageous actions. In other words, Barnhardt has no fear of reprisal. Fortunately, for him, the multiple felony charges he could have faced miraculously disappeared in Hill’s imaginative script.
Overall, I admire Jody Hill’s bold filmmaking style and courage to take a chance with something different from the other flaccid comedic schlock hitting theaters. This film will elevate Rogen’s stock in Hollywood as a comedic actor.