Observe and Report
A week after "Adventureland" turned out to be a much different film than advertised (but a great one!), "Observe and Report" comes along to be even farther away from how it was advertised. From the trailer, it looked as though Seth Rogen's Ronnie Barnhardt was going to be a lovable if somewhat self-important schlub. A good guy who's simply misunderstood by those around him and unfairly maligned for being a mall cop. What writer-director Jody Hill gives us however, is the story of a deeply disturbed and delusional individual who has absolutely no business in a position of authority, no matter how small. This marketing bait and switch was clearly designed by someone at the studio to sell more tickets, but this is a film that probably has more in common with "Taxi Driver" than any of Rogen's own earlier work. That's not to say this isn't a comedy, but don't expect it to be "Paul Blart" with a "Superbad" sensibility.
Ronnie is the head of mall security at a New Mexico shopping center that has just been terrorized by a chubby flasher. The pervert exposed himself to several shoppers and he comes back for more. When he comes after mall employee Brandi (Anna Faris), it becomes Ronnie's personal mission to capture and yes, kill, the flasher. He even says so in a profanity-laced tirade on the local news. But as a simple mall security guard Ronnie has limited resources and gets no respect from Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), who rightly tells Ronnie to stay away from the investigation. Now in addition to the flasher there's also a burglar arriving in the night. Ronnie will not let this stand. Meanwhile, he applies to the police department, much to Harrison's aggravation.
In between violent, brutal outbursts, Ronnie courts Brandi but this is hardly a sweet budding relationship. Ronnie's creepy and Brandi is about as stuck up and self-obsessed as a person can be. It's a credit to Rogen and Faris as actors that they don't try to make these people likable or more cuddly. They get what Hill is going for here. This tone works well for many of their scenes together, but not everything comes off. Many scenes, particularly the more violent ones, Hill seems to be unsure of what he wants. Does he want us to laugh at Ronnie and Dennis (Michael Pena) beating kids with night sticks or does he want us to be horrified? In his seeming indecision he tries to have it both ways and the result is that we don't really feel anything.
For all of its flaws though, I still liked "Observe and Report." It's a very interesting film and Rogen proves he's able to stretch himself. There is some good work from the supporting cast as well. Pena is unrecognizable as the guy from "Crash" and "World Trade Center," and Jesse Plemons ("Friday Night Lights") and Collette Wolfe are both very good though sadly underused.
"Observe and Report" shows us a man that we sympathize with even if we would never want to be in the same room with him. There's something to be said for that. Just don't expect the laugh-fest you were promised. 7/10.