BluRay/DVD Reviews

OBSERVE AND REPORT

By • Sep 24th, 2009 •

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Ronnie Barnhardt is a mall security guard (or “head of mall security”). He is in love with Brandi (Anna Farris), a shallow airhead from the makeup department, even though she thinks he is a creep. When Brandi becomes victim of a flasher, Ronnie makes it his personal duty to Rid the mall of corruption, and bring the flasher to justice over Police Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), who has been assigned to the case.

There is a scene in OBSERVE AND REPORT where Detective Harrison is explaining to Ronnie why he is being denied from joining the police force (He failed the psychological exam). Mid scene one of Harrison’s police partners exits from the closet where he was secretly listening in. He says “Sorry, I thought this would be funny, but it’s sad”. That sums up the movie pretty well, and it is one of the reasons why I enjoyed OBSERVE AND REPORT. In fact, I enjoyed the hell out of it.

This isn’t to say that the movie doesn’t have funny moments. Only this comedy has more in common with TAXI DRIVER than PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. The filmmakers are aware of this. There is a montage in OBSERVE AND REPORT where Ronnie is training and delivering a voice over, expressing his need to act as a hero. During this, he stops and says “Let me start that over”, and he delivers the same line from the beginning. This is taken directly from when TAXI DRIVER’s Travis Bickle is arming himself with weaponry and delivering his voice over. “Listen you f*ckers, you screwheads. Here is a man who would not take it anymore. Who would not…let-” (Jump cut: back to beginning of shot) The same voice over starts again.

Even the cinematography (by David Gordon Greene regular Tim Orr) is reminiscent of a Scorsese movie, with frequent steadicams and slo-mo shots set to rock music. (Orr also does a great job with the color schemes and lighting.)

I missed OBSERVE AND REPORT when it was in theaters. At the time I didn’t have much interest in watching it. I guess I wasn’t the only one. It didn’t do very well at the box office, which is surprising for a movie starring Seth Rogan. I think it might have to do with everything I just mentioned. Not only is the movie sad, but it’s subversive, and very dark. I do remember a controversy breaking out over one of the movie’s sex scenes. Ronnie takes Brandi out on a date. She throws back shots all night and even takes a handful of his prescription anti-depressants. Ronnie stays sober. He takes her home, she throws up and they kiss. Then they have sex, while she is passed out! When he realizes this he stops, worried about her, and asks if she’s okay. She says (without moving or opening her eyes) “Why are you stopping, motherf*cker?!” He continues. This sparked quite an outrage, and I can see why. He clearly date-rapes her. Just like Travis Bickle, we are dealing with a morally ambiguous character, already established as mentally unstable. He is also, like Bickle, a racist. Therefore it is up to the viewer to decide what is funny and what is not. The whole film takes this uncomfortable tone. For instance, there are scenes with Ronnie’s mother (Celia Weston), an alcoholic who passes out drunk on the floor every night. Her lines are clearly written for laughs, but may also offend. Many times I wasn’t sure if I should be laughing. I personally enjoy that feeling of unease.

Seth Rogan does a good job in the role, but he falls into habits we have seen before. He doesn’t hinder the film’s power, but he had room to search deeper into the character, and didn’t take it. The opposite can be said about Farris. She has so much acting capability, but is constantly restrained by the simple characters she is given. Anna, it’s time to fire your agent, because you are better than these dumb blond roles.

The real star of this movie is writer and director Jody Hill. A newcomer who also created the television show EASTBOUND AND DOWN which is just as politically incorrect. George Carlin once said “I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and deliberately cross it”. Jody Hill is not afraid to take this advice.
!!! SPOILER BELOW !!!

In TAXI DRIVER, Scorsese shows restraint by building his character up until the very breaking point, which is at the end of the film. This causes the ending to be much more shocking and effective. Perhaps OBSERVE AND REPORT should have followed this structure. My only real problem with the film is that Ronnie loses his cool many times and beats the crap out of delinquent skateboarders, abusive managers, ghetto crack dealers, and even police officers. If these scenes were limited, the ending (a great scene where he finally shoots the flasher in the chest) may have been all the more powerful and cathartic.

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