Monday, 6 April 2015

Movie Review: Get Hard (2015)

For the third time now in as many months, I am once again looking at a film starring the man who I can now rightfully call my nemesis: Kevin Hart. It’s not that I have any real hate for the guy himself, as I really don’t have any reason to; I just don’t like his work on screen and it feels like we’ve been getting more and more of it since I formed that opinion. After the lameality of Ride Along last year and the current frontrunner for worst of 2015 The Wedding Ringer, I have no genuine desire to see anything he’s involved in. The only exception to this is Top Five, but then again he was in all of one scene in that movie and he served his purpose as well as can be expected. I’d call this the film I was looking forward to the least this season, but I’ll be getting to that one later on in the week. So, can the added boost of the occasionally funny Will Ferrell save this in my eyes? Only one way to find out: This is Get Hard.

The plot: James King (Will Ferrell) is a wealthy financial businessman who finds himself in court over embezzling funds. Despite pleas of innocence, he is sentenced to 10 years in Sam Quentin. With only 30 days on the outside left till then, he enlists the help of car washer Darnell (Kevin Hart) to train him to be ready for life in prison. Darnell, despite not having spent even a day behind bars, agrees to help him in exchange for enough money to put his daughter in a better public school and sets up his own prisoner training program for James.

The cast here is… odd, to say the least, both in casting and who ends up doing best in their roles. Will Ferrell has always been hit-and-miss for me, but I will give him credit that when he’s funny, he’s really damn funny. Thankfully, he’s much the same here and genuinely got some decent laughs out of me, already elevating this above the ‘complete roadkill’ rating I was expecting to give it. Kevin Hart, despite my already-present disdain for his on-screen persona, is a decent team-up for Ferrell and the banter between the two works for the most part; or, at least, works in that nothing actively made me rage out like so many things did with Wedding Ringer. Craig T. Nelson, Mr. Incredible himself, plays James’ boss Martin and does a competent job with the pretty thinly veiled antagonist that he’s given (Yeah, no spoiler tag because even the blind could see it coming) but he never really hits any proper comedic moments. The biggest surprise for me, though, was the two musicians that were signed on for this movie: Rapper T.I. as Darnell’s cousin Russell and White Guy With Acoustic Guitar John Mayer as himself. The former worked really well because, as Ferrell kind of lampshades in the film proper, T.I. has that kind of charisma that he makes his gangsta character work, not to mention being one of the few gangstas I’ve seen on film that has actual business sense as it were; I’ll admit that I’m not massive on T.I. as a rapper, but the man has definitely got on-screen presence. The latter worked exceptionally well because not only did he have a certain amount of self-awareness about him concerning his mostly-female fan base but he also represents one of the few scattershot attempts at satire that this film actually manages to pull off, making fun of ‘artistic’ musicians who vocally hate commercialization of music but still charge money for their songs.

I feel kind of ashamed that it took me the third time around to figure this out, but Kevin Hart is going through a pretty severe case of typecasting in the last few films he’s headlined: Pretending to be something that he isn’t for money; it’s the same deal as with The Wedding Ringer and to a lesser degree Ride Along, although that time he wasn’t pretending for money but to get Ice Cube’s approval to be with his daughter. As much as I’d like to make a joke about how, next time around, he should portray a character that has to pretend to be funny so that maybe he could get some laughs finally, I’ll instead look at how the comedy at work in this movie is more of a mixed bag than I was expecting from Hart. A lot of it revolves around really hackneyed gay jokes, as hinted at by the not-so-subtle title, and a bunch of racial humour that wobbles between making decent observations and just falling dead. On the good side, the best point would have to be when the film essentially makes a direct comparison between Wall Street and street criminals and what qualifies as ‘gangsta’; it may not be the most original comparison in the world, but it’s very sound and made for some good laughs. On the bad side, we have quite possibly the most deafening silence after a joke I’ve heard in a very long time: James mentions that he went to boarding school with the Murdochs and the Bin Ladens, albeit before the events of 9/11 (“I mean, I know they cheated at soccer, but…”). The silence in that cinema was pure anti-joy and one of the most painful movie-going experiences I’ve had since starting all this. Thankfully, that moment happens early on and nothing else in the film even comes close to matching that. Hell, the scene where James practices his trash-talking to Darnell counteracts that prior scene completely by being one of the funnier exchanges I’ve seen this year so far; rarely do I find myself actively wishing that I could write as well as what I was hearing on-screen, but this scene made me a wee bit jealous that I couldn’t come up with something that deliciously vile myself. Shame the rest of the film doesn’t live up to it, though.

I mentioned before that there will be no spoiler tag concerning the revelation about Martin, and that’s because this is a really paint-by-numbers story we have here, to the point where even the film itself has to mock how paper-thin everything is. If you’ve seen any sort of reluctant buddy movie, you’ll know how this goes right down to the third-act break-up that for some reason escapes the rom-com genre specifically for films like this. It doesn’t help that because of the main setup, with Darnell having to lie about being an ex-con, the audience actively expects the moment when the liar is revealed which manages to cut down any semblance of tension that could be gained from it. We get plenty of training montages during the prison school sequences, because of course there are, but the worst part is how the training concludes: It doesn’t, or at least it doesn’t properly. Once we get to the last third of the film, they completely drop the prison training idea and just go with setting out to find who framed King for the embezzlement. It’s in no way streamlined, either, as the transition is quite jarring even with all the hinting at it with Martin thinking that that’s what Darnell and King were doing in the first place.


All in all, this is nowhere near as bad as I was expecting it to be but it isn’t all that great either. Will Ferrell does a lot of good for this movie and brings some genuine laughs, and some of the supporting cast do a great job too, but the comedy wastes the majority of its potential with bad racial and homophobic humour, not to mention the fact that we still have Kevin Hart stuck in this character-within-a-character rut that is only going to get worse if it continues. Oh, and it’s all capped off with a soundtrack littered with DJ Mustard beats and imitators of that style: Basic trap garbage with “Hey!” being repeated in background… yeah, he can go straight to purgatory for all I care for making that shit popular. It’s better than Unfinished Business, as this was nowhere near as bland or as annoying as that turned out, but it falls below The Quarantine Hauntings, which is at least capable of getting better laughs in the right circles. If you’re a fan of Kevin Hart, then this might work for you, but otherwise this is just okay; you won’t miss too much.

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