“Observe and Report” – 2009. Dir. Jody Hill

With Seth Rogen, Michael Pena, Anna Faris, John Yuan, Matt Yuan, Jesse Plemons, Aziz Ansari with Danny McBride and Ray Liotta.

“I ain’t gonna lie to you Ronnie; there ain’t nothin’ good about this at all.” – Dennis (Michael Pena)

Lately I’ve taken a slight detour from my film watching, and I’ve invested fully into HBO original series. I’m sorry to say, but “Boardwalk Empire” isn’t at all what it’s cracked up to be. I’ve been diving head first into “In Treatment” (which I now consider the finest HBO show to date). The highlight of my week is the one hour block on Sunday nights of two series: “Bored to Death” and “Eastbound & Down”. I watched the first season of “Eastbound” and I wasn’t that impressed with it – but after seeing where the story has gone this season – it’s one of my new obsessions.

Jody Hill is the creator and head writer/director of “Eastbound” and my BFF Peyton told me about “Observe and Report” which Hill did prior to “Eastbound”. I had an idea what the film was and I can say one thing for sure: I don’t like Seth Rogen and I probably never will. I remembered Quentin Tarantino saying that “Observe and Report” was one of the best films of last year; and the film also has Ray Liotta in it. So I watched it last night.

I don’t think much can prepare you for this film – it is one of the blackest comedies I have seen in years. The subject matter, the situations, the themes of this film is very dark. Seth Rogen who plays the head of mall security at this shitty little po-dunk mall is a fucking psychopath (seriously). He is comical, but when you actually comprehend what he’s saying/thinking – you realize how fucked up he really is.

The film starts with a flasher running through the mall’s parking lot. He’s pulling open his coat and showing every woman he sees his penis and yelling degrading things to them. It’s very funny. Ronnie (Rogen) is making it his mission to find this “fucking pervert” and has his underlings hot on the case. John and Matt Yuan are overweight identical Asian twins who inject excellent comic relief and Michael Pena, who I’ve never cared for, plays Dennis a stereotypical “gangsta” Mexican but he’s soft spoken and speaks with a lisp. Pena rocks the shit out of his role.

Anna Faris plays Brandi a high maintenance spoiled girl who works a cosmetic counter at the mall, and Ronnie is not only in love with her – he’s obsessed. When Bradi is “assaulted” by the flasher; enter Ray Liotta as the hard ass Detective Harrison. As you would expect Liotta plays his hot headed typecast but he is such an excellent treat in the film. Ronnie goes head to head with Detective Harrison, to try and compete for the attention and protection of Brandi.

I know you won’t believe this unless you’ve seen this, or have read about it, but this film is a mirror to “Taxi Driver”. That being said, this film is nowhere near as powerful or important as “Taxi Driver” – but Jody Hill shows so much homage to not only to “Taxi Driver” but to other Scorsese films. I can’t help but think the casting of Ray Liotta was partially due to Liotta being in “Goodfellas”.

We are shown an incredibly dark world, filled with slime and pathetic people, just like the New York of “Taxi Driver”. Ronnie is our Travis Bickle, with his brooding voiceover narration that screams for anarchy. The way the story builds and arcs is much like the flow and structure of “Taxi Driver”. It’s a wonderful homage/re-imagining.

There are a lot of scenes in this film, one in particular that really pushes the limits and boundaries of the films audience. This film isn’t one of the typical bullshit comedies that come out; this film really does push your limits as a viewer. Many times while watching the film, I looked away from the film – not because I was disgusted – but because the film is a bit much most of the time. What eases the blow of such a crude film is an immaculate soundtrack of “throwback” 70’s music.

This is a difficult film to digest, due to the subject matter, and due to the fact that Ronnie is insane. Jody Hill paints us this disturbing portrait of the human condition – and makes these characters very over the top – yet we can see ourselves in them. This isn’t a great film; nor is it for everyone, but if you enjoy a romp in the darkest comedic form, I recommend this film to you 100%. After seeing the film, there’s no question as to why Tarantino thinks this was one of the ten best films of last year.

Rating: 7.5/10

Author: Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

4 thoughts on ““Observe and Report” – 2009. Dir. Jody Hill”

  1. My buddy and I walked out this movie when we saw it, but it was mostly his call. But the more I read about it, the more it sounds really interesting. I’ll have to TiVo it tomorrow.

  2. Quite a weird movie, especially given the fact that you expect a comedy but it sort of veers into some dark places. The main problem I had were that all of the characters were unlikable and quite pathetic which makes it hard to sustain your attention if the movie isn’t thoroughly “entertaining”

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