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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Observe and Report (Blu-ray)
Observe and Report (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // R // September 22, 2009 // Region Free
List Price: $35.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted September 22, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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"I have a
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dream most nights. It starts on a playground, and there's kids swinging, and they're laughing...there's dogs barking...butterflies just flapping their little wings...and then you hear a rumbling, and over the horizon comes a black cloud, and it's made of cancer and pus. It starts sweeping over the playground, and everyone starts screaming and clawing their eyes and pulling at their hair and saying, 'Help! What do we do?!?' And you know what happens next? Out steps me: wielding the biggest fuckin' shotgun you've ever seen in your life, and you know what I do? I blow every fuckin' thing away, and I am gettin' God's work done. And when it's all over and the dust has settled, the whole world gathers below me, and they say 'Thank you, Ronnie. Thank you for helping: being a great man and doing this for us.' And you know what I say? 'You don't need to thank me. I'm just a guy with a gun. I'm just a cop.'"

Okay, Observe and Report is a flick that has a guy dozing off with a syringe of heroin still jabbed into his arm. There's what's close enough to a date rape sequence with a double-digit IQ bimbo passed out and a trickle of her own vomit spilled over onto the pillow next to her. Rampant racism, a close-up of a bone split right down the middle and tearing through the skin, an unarmed schlub gunned down point-blank, mocking the handicapped, an outgunned one-man wrecking crew going Oldboy on a small army of cops, alcoholism, a parade of death threats... Pretty much every review the world over has compared it to Taxi Driver, another movie about a delusional sociopath. Oh! And we're talking about a comedy, by the way.

Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen) is a security guar...I mean, the head of security at Forest Ridge Mall, and when a flasher starts skulking around the parking lot and exposing his naughty bits, Ronnie finally has a chance to play cop the way he's always wanted. C'mon, it's perfect. Nailing this perp could be Barnhardt's express pass to scoring a real badge, and if nothing else, maybe he'll at least impress that jiggly blonde over there in cosmetics (Anna Faris). The only thing...? Ronnie's kind of an idiot, blindly and hyperprofanely barking accusations at pretty much everyone in earshot, and all it really does is get in the way of the way-too-patient detective heading up the investigation (Ray Liotta). I guess if you're unhinged and determined, though, that brass ring doesn't seem so far away after all. Ronnie looks like he's kinda-sorta on his way to the, um, first stages of possibly becoming a cop, and he even browbeats his dream girl Brandi into a dinner date. Oh, and then he loses it...and not just those romantic daydreams or his shot at the police academy either: everything. Yup, we're talking about a delusional psychopath of a rent-a-cop off his meds and with nothing to lose. Boom.

Observe and Report clearly
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isn't something cute and toothless like Paul Blart: Mall Cop. For a studio like Warner to say, "hey, Guy That Made The Foot Fist Way: here's $18 million. Knock yourself out" for a comedy this dark, sticky, and depraved...? And to splash it across 2,700+ screens, even? It's unreal, but...hey! Maybe I have my own stack of issues too, but I dug the hell out of Observe and Report. Again, this is a movie that's been compared endlessly to Taxi Driver, and Ronnie Barnhardt and Travis Bickle really aren't all that far removed. There's nothing remotely likeable about this condescending prick with an overinflated sense of self-importance, but he's so deluded and so pathetic -- such a complete and total failure -- that I can't help but feel sorry for the poor bastard anyway. Even more than in Taxi Driver and Bad Santa, I really felt like I was clawing my way through every square inch of his psychosis, and it's fascinating to see just how deep his descent really goes.

Seth Rogen's playing against type but is perfectly cast here, and I'm sure the fact that Rogen usually does play a likeable schlub leaves Ronnie feeling marginally more sympathetic than he might have with someone else's name on the bill. This isn't so much the most glamorous role for Anna Faris either -- she's a dimwitted cum dumpster with only two redeeming qualities IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN -- but she dives in headfirst anyway, stealing pretty much every last scene she's in as that slackjawed bimbo. Writer/director Jody Hill's piled together a pretty great cast straight across the board, really, including turns by Patton Oswalt, Danny McBride (natch), and Aziz Ansari. McBride's only in the movie for a couple of minutes, but...wow. It's the sort of inhumanly funny bit where I'd put the movie on just to force that part on anyone who makes the mistake of stepping foot in my living room. I'd say more, but I'm trying to step around spoilers. This is the first time Michael Peña's ever popped up in a comedy, and his lisping, doggedly loyal nutjob of a security guard runs away with every scene he's in too.

Observe and Report doesn't try to be some kind of laff-a-minute yukyukfest, and not all of its stabs at humor work anyway, but it kept me cackling more than pretty much every other comedy that's washed up on my doorstep so far this year. I can't help but respect a movie that careens over this far from just about every standard issue convention ever, and a comedy this deranged and psychotic being bankrolled by a major studio and carving a path onto several thousand screens is borderline-surreal. I don't really know where Jody Hill's going to go from here, but if Observe and Report is any indication, I'll be marching in lockstep behind him. The only place Hill really lost me -- and even this is mostly pointless nitpicking -- is overindulging on the soundtrack. Don't get me wrong: it's a phenomenal stack of songs, but there are a few stretches where they come one after another after another at a ridiculously fast clip, almost as if Hill was stuck deciding between a few tunes and wound up deciding to cram all of 'em into the movie instead. Otherwise...? I was pretty thoroughly impressed on just about every level by Observe and Report. I can't exactly promise you'll feel the same way, but I guarantee you'll have an intense reaction one way or another. Love it or hate it, this definitely isn't an indifferent shrug of a movie. Highly Recommended.

Observe and Report looks pretty decent in high-def. The scope image is a little softer than average and has a slightly filtered look to it, but detail...clarity...contrast -- y'know, all the usual stuff Blu-ray reviewers ramble on about -- are close enough to what I'd expect out of a shiny new BD-25. There aren't any technical hiccups worth griping about, and the VC-1 encode doesn't buckle under the weight of the thin sheen of film grain. It's nothing jaw-droppingly startling or anything but is still solid enough for what it is.

Sure, the screen spits out "5.1!" whenever I mash the Display button on my remote, and some atmosphere does bleed back into the surrounds, but otherwise, this 16-bit Dolby TrueHD track might as well have been straightahead stereo. Pretty much everything's anchored across the front channels, and even the ambient color in the rears is so light that I actually stopped the movie at one point to make sure I didn't accidentally yank out any speaker wire or anything. The surround channels flesh out a couple of scenes a bit more -- car alarms and barking dogs at the Crossroads and the clatter of the police department -- but that's really about it. Even the anthemic Queen songs that are blasted for a while there shrug off the rears. Bass response is generally pretty decent, though, especially the tight, punchy kick drums in the music and and the thunderous cracks of gunfire. The slugfest that rolls around near the climax winds up sounding kind of flat by comparison, though. Oh well. Dialogue's definitely the focus here anyway, and all of that's rendered well enough.

Observe and Report also piles on Dolby Digital dubs and subtitle streams in French, Spanish, and Portuguese. There's an English SDH stream on there too, by the way.

The DVD got stiffed this time around, with that standard-def release not bothering to churn out any extras at all. As it turns out, though...? They're really not missing out on much.
  • Basically Training (7 min.; SD): So, Seth Rogen: husky? Sure. A hyperathletic human dynamo? As it turns out...yup. "Basically Training" takes a peek at just how physically grueling stretches of this shoot were. The two biggest battle royales snag most of its attention, including how tough it is for stuntmen to veer away from their instincts and deliberately fight so sloppily.

  • Forest Ridge Mall Security: Recruitment Video (3 min.; SD): This spoof recruitment video -- a mix of new footage and snippets from the film -- is trying to be finger-wagglingly zany, but it doesn't really score much of a laugh.

  • Seth Rogen and Anna Faris: Unscripted (8 min.; SD): For a
    [click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
    featurette that's waving a spotlight somewhere around the brilliance of improv, the riffs cut together for "Unscripted" are kinda lame. This whole thing pretty much boils down to "hey, we improv'ed a lot!", belting out a bunch of lines from Rogen and Faris like the title says but from Michael Peña and Danny McBride too while it's at it. Along with a bunch of shots of the cast blowing takes and cracking up, there's also a Seth Rogen cackle-montage.

  • Gag Reel (12 min.; SD): Lotsa blown lines and improvs are scattered around in here, including a rambling coyote-dressed-as-a-bird analogy and a riff about the stabbiness of three swords taped together.

  • Additional and Extended Scenes (27 min.; SD): Yeah, so this is the big one, obviously: Ronnie and the wee ethnicish store owner squabbling in front of a news camera, Ronnie getting a drunken beatdown from his mother, a look at Charles being seduced into the mall security fold and shown the rounds, a whole lot more with Ronnie tormenting the no-hablo-ingles janitor, a little more Brandi stalking, and a followup to the Oldboy-flavored battle royale. There's some decent stuff in here, but I do think Observe and Report plays better with as sleek and lean as the final cut wound up being.

  • Behind the Scenes: Not the most imaginative title for a picture-in-picture commentary, but hey...! I don't judge. Anyway, recorded the day after the film's premiere, this visual commentary track piles writer/director Jody Hill in the screening room with Anna Faris and Seth Rogen. It's kind of a casual, laidback, quippy track about crystal meth, a stuck-up underbite, a bomb threat getting in the way of some time lapse photography, the boom operator doubling as a composer, hammering out that sort of vomit-spattered sex scene, and Rogen feeling kind of meek about smashing everything in sight. Their commentary isn't indescribably funny or piercingly insightful or anything, but...sure, it's decent enough to be worth a listen.
Observe and Report is a BD Live-enabled disc, but at least the last time I looked, there weren't any additional bells-and-whistles lurking around online. The second disc in this set is a digital copy, by the way.

The Final Word
So...yeah. Paul Blart: Blart Harder it's not so much, and the fact that a flick like Observe and Report even exists -- let alone steamrolling its way onto a few thousand screens by a sprawling, monolithic movie studio -- is kind of surreal. Equal parts dark, sticky, depraved, depressing, howlingly funny, and even kinda sweet in its own demented way, Observe and Report is one of the most cacklingly disturbing comedies this side of Bad Santa. This isn't a laff-riot with a Gatling gun sense of humor peppered with barrages of hundreds of thousands of gags -- c'mon, the flick's about a manic-depressive, delusional rent-a-cop who's off his meds -- but as uneven as the movie can be, Observe and Report is devastatingly funny when it connects. Pushing its R rating just about to the breaking point, it kinda goes without saying that we're not chatting about something all that mainstream. Still, if you're up for a dark, psychotic comedy that's left the Clozapine on the bathroom counter, Observe and Report is essential viewing. Highly Recommended.

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