Even dangerous lunatics have dreams. Just because youíre crazy doesnít mean you canít aspire to something higher, greater than yourself. All his life Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen) has dreamed of serving something bigger than he is, all his life heís dreamed of justice. Unfortunately Ronnieís view of justice isnít exactly the norm. In his bi-polar world justice is whatever he deems it to be and so weíre lucky that his existence is confined, mostly, to a few acres of clothing racks and concrete. Ronnie Barnhardt is the worldís most destructive, well meaning psychotic. Heís also a mall cop.
Observe and Report revolves around letting us see the world from this singular, disturbed point of view. This is Ronnieís vision, his dream in which heís the hero whoís kicked to the ground and then must rise up again to save the day, get the girl. Thatís what Ronnie sees when he watches this movie in his head, but we know better. Ronnieís a miserable, arrogant thug, a borderline idiot, a total prick; a garbage bag of insecurity, self-loathing and yes, mental illness. He makes everyone around him uncomfortable and heís completely unpredictable. Selfish one minute, kind and forgiving the next. Loyal to a fault, but willing to betray anyone to accomplish his goals. Itís all brought into sharp focus when, for what must surely be the first time, Ronnie has an actual case.
Heís after a flasher. You know the type: Husky, middle-aged white man lurking inside a trench coat and accosting young women with his genitals as they attempt the trip from the mall to their cars. Ronnie vows to catch him and in the process blockís the policeís efforts to do the same. He sees himself as a knight in shining armor but we see a clumsy lout standing in the mall accusing the first brown guy he sees of being a terrorist. In the process of investigating the case Ronnie thinks he gets the girl (Anna Faris), but we see that the girl is a drunken whore who has no idea that itís Ronnie lying on top of her.
Writer/director Jody Hillís script is complex, brutal, and as different from the yearís other mall cop based movie Paul Blart as Blart is different from Watchmen. The filmís similarities being and end with their protagonists professions. Observe and Report isnít even really a comedy, though it contains many funny moments. But it also holds within deep, dark violence, sometimes used for comedic effect, sometimes used to shock. Itís a dark comedy in the darkest sense of the term, a shocking and bravely written movie about a man who thinks heís being pushed to the brink, even though heís long since fallen off.
For Seth Rogen, this is the first real performance heís ever given. Donít get me wrong, heís fantastic in movies like Knocked Up and Zack and Miri, but the truth is that heís basically playing himself. Weíve seen it over and over again, Seth Rogen playing the lovable, raunchy stoner. Ronnie is nothing like any of those characters. In fact heís their polar opposite. If Ronnie met Seth Rogen in his mall, heíd deliver a beat down just for the way he wears his beard. Yet Seth nails the character anyway, doing something completely outside of his comfort zone and making it work. Though it works, Iím not entirely convinced that the performance is his own. The part feels like it was written for Danny McBride, who plays the lead in Hillís first movie The Foot Fist Way, and Rogenís take at times almost feels like heís doing his impression of how Danny might have played the character, rather than coming up with individualized ideas. Rogenís great, but maybe the real Danny McBride would have been even better.
Observe and Report revels in violence and trades on the misery of others for laughs. Itís like Taxi Driver meets The Big Lebowski, a sick and morally bankrupt combination which absolutely should not work, yet does. Itís a celebration of savagery and madness, the story of a man whoís a hero in his own head. Whoís to say whatís right and wrong? Ronnie Barnhardt, thatís who.
Reviewed By: Josh Tyler