Vail movie review: ‘Observe and Report’
Vail CO, Colorado
Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen) is the bi-polar head of security at the Forest Ridge Mall who lives in his own little world. In it, he’s the protector of innocents, the keeper of purity and morals and the hammer of righteousness in a world full of weak people and sin. In reality though, he’s an egomaniacal, semi-racist moron who wears a uniform and a badge, sports a tazer and baton, and has a God-complex two rungs below Hitler and a gun fetish that would make Charlton Heston proud.
Somehow, despite all this, writer and director Jody Hill’s script makes us sympathetic to Ronnie anyway. It’s an amazing feat that shouldn’t be taken lightly given how many reasons there are to dislike him, even fear him in “Observe and Report,” which should have been titled “Observe, Report and Punish” considering Rogen does all three in this film with salacious pride and fervor.
Ronnie is the kind of guy who society is scared to death of but must make nice with for its own good. Otherwise he might just snap and kill everybody around him at any moment. The kind of guy who wants to be a real cop but can’t pass the psyche exam. The kind of guy that could be the next Columbine killer given enough time and bad luck. Yet somehow, it’s impossible not to cheer for him the entire film.
When an anonymous flasher (Randy Gambill) shows up in the mall parking lot and begins exposing himself to unexpecting female customers, Ronnie jumps on the case to prove his status as protector of the mall. With the help of his four underlings (Matt and John Yuan, Jesse Plemons, and Michael Pena) Ronnie is determined to catch the pervert and bring him to justice, but when the flasher returns and shows his genitals to mall makeup counter girl Brandi (Anna Faris) things get personal for Ronnie. See, Ronnie is in love with Brandi and he’s sure they’re meant to be together despite the fact that she’s a party slut who finds Ronnie annoying and creepy. To make matters worse, Ronnie butts heads with Detective Harrison ( Ray Liotta) over who has jurisdiction over the case. Oh yeah, Rogan still lives at home with his alcoholic mother (Celia Weston) who passes out regularly on the floor and blames him for his father leaving them.
I know that all sounds very depressing, but it works to lots of laughs in the twisted universe of “Observe and Report,” where everyone is dysfunctional and rotten in some way, so much so that Ronnie often comes off as the true hero he believes he is. Detective Harrison is such an a–hole that you want Ronnie to catch the flasher and Brandi is such a b-tch you hope she overdoses on pills in her sleep. At times it seems like the flasher himself is more of a good guy than many of the people who work at the mall.
“Observe and Report” will be considered offensive by many, especially during the final 10 minutes of the film during which the audience will get more than an eyeful (you know what I mean). It’s often violent, over-the-top and kind of eerie at times, but fans of dark comedy will get more than their money’s worth. If watching kids get beat up by adults, drug use, vomit, profanity and nudity are not your cup of tea, Hannah Montana is playing next door.
The tagline for “Observe and Report” is “Right now, the world needs a hero.” In some weird way, it gives us that in Ronnie Barnhardt. Just be thankful he’s on our side for now.