By design, Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart’s new comedy Get Hard is racist. Stop for one second and think about the plot. A clueless white executive (Ferrell), upon learning that he’s going to prison, hires a random black man (Hart) to train him on how to survive behind bars. Forget the fact that Hart’s character has never served time. But after the film’s World Premiere in SXSW, the audience had hard questions about the opinions in Get Hard, and director Etan Cohen stood his ground.
Get Hard screened in the Paramount on Monday night in a prime slot on the SXSW 2015 schedule. During a Q-and-A session following the film, an audience member got up and accused Cohen (screenwriter on Tropic Thunder) of making a movie that is "racist as fuck," according to The Hollywood Reporter. Obviously, due to content, the movie was going to tow the line of controversy. But Cohen, who the trade described as being "slightly rattled" by the audience member’s question, gave an honest response, saying:
The truth was that was a really delicate balance. ... It was really hard thing to modulate, because we really wanted to make a statement about this stuff. We wanted to think about this stuff, and think about the stereotypes, but not go too far -- where comedy doesn't deserve to go.
Here’s where Etan Cohen and I slightly disagree. I like to believe that comedy can and should go anywhere… everywhere, even. Humor often can be used as an outstanding tool for diffusing complicated subject matters. The difficulty often lies in finding a line that’s acceptable, but you almost have to know going in that no matter what you try, someone is going to be offended.
Did Get Hard step over that line? Possibly. Probably. Did you see the red-band trailer? It concludes with an extended joke about Will Ferrell performing oral sex on Matt Walsh of Veep.
But I find it hard (sorry) to believe that anyone would head into Get Hard not knowing what to expect. As we reported following our set visit, Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart knew they were going to embrace an R rating from the MPAA, and pulled no punches in exploring the racial divide while also serving what sounds like an hysterical premise. Will it be too offensive? Decide for yourself when Get Hard hits theaters on March 27.