Movie review: "Observe & Report"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

There's a movie playing in the head of Ronnie Barnhardt, the mall security cop played by Seth Rogen in Observe and Report, but it's a far cry from the movie on screen.

In Ronnie's eyes, he's the thick blue line between order and chaos in "a place of purity," on the trail of a flasher who's been terrorizing women for the sake of Brandi (Anna Faris), a lovely damsel in distress who works at the makeup counter.

Police detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), who's brought in to investigate, tries to muscle in on Ronnie's territory, but also offers a chance to fulfill his dream of becoming a cop.

Writer-director Jody Hill offers a less-conventional viewpoint. The Ronnie we see is angry, heavily medicated and highly unstable, living at home with his drunken mother (a phenomenal Celia Weston) and verging on stalker behavior with Brandi, who's thoroughly awful.

The one thing the two versions have in common is Ronnie's remarkable skill with a bloody beatdown.

Like Ronnie, the film feels slightly schizophrenic and you're never sure what it'll do next. And it's got a mean, pitch-black sense of humor, anchored by a performance from Rogen that effectively trades in loveable for pitiful and sometimes scary.

Hill sometimes has more luck generating discomfort than hilarity, and his approach will probably polarize or turn off audiences (see King of Comedy and The Cable Guy). But as twisted as this is, it feels like a healthy alternative to another bland, predictable comedy.

"Observe and Report"

Opens Friday

Grade: B+