Observe and Report is dark, disturbed and totally offensive -- yet, somehow manages to be the most heartwarming comedy of the year so far. Not surprisingly, this twisted tale about a bipolar mall cop stems from the brain of writer-director Jody Hill (The Foot Fist Way and the underappreciated HBO series East Bound and Down) and it pushes major boundaries. It’s likely you’ll either love it or loathe it. Radar loves it.
Seth Rogen is perfectly cast as Ronnie Barnhardt, the head of security at a cookie-cutter shopping center who seems harmless and hardworking -- he takes tasks like shooing away skateboarders very seriously -- but is really suppressing violent rage with a variety of anti-depressants. So when a fat flasher starts accosting ladies in the parking lot, Ronnie sees this mission as his call to arms -- especially when the scumbag shows his package to his seemingly unattainable crush Brandi (Anna Faris), the slutty make-up counter girl with a heart of stone. Ronnie organizes a vigilante Special Elite Task Force of misfit rent-a-cops to bring the pervert down, and hilarity and many, many other troubling things ensue.
Observe and Report, which Hill says was inspired by Taxi Driver, has a truly weird and memorable cast of characters. Michael Pena (Crash, World Trade Center) plays Dennis, Ronnie’s lisping, Jheri-curled partner in crime-fighting. Veteran character actress Celia Weston is cringe-worthy, in the good way, as Ronnie’s fall-down drunk Mom, and Ray Liotta plays it straight as Ronnie’s nemesis -- the real cop investigating several crimes at the mall. Collette Wolf (Semi-Pro) is a breath of fresh air as Ronnie’s sweet, innocent love interest Nell, perhaps the only sane character in the whole thing.
One beef with Observe and Report is the gratuitous use of the F-word. Every single actor seems to drop the F-bomb like 100 times. It’s funny the first five minutes. Then it’s just distracting. Cursing is a cheap, unoriginal way to get laughs. And with so much other good, shocking stuff going on here, it just seems forced and unnecessary.
Having said that, most of the other envelope-pushing shtick, including full-frontal male nudity and what appears to be date rape, works and will have your mouth agape. Again, be forewarned: This genre-defying movie is not for everyone. But the sick bastards out there will really enjoy themselves.
3 ½ radars out of 5