Wednesday, 23 September 2020
Observe and Report
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Tuesday, 14 April 2009 10:27

observereportposterIt seems an unlikely subject to have inspired two feature films in one year, but the career in mall security seems to be en vogue. Despite the similar plot device these two films couldn’t be in starker contrast to one another. If Paul Blart: Mall Copp is like cotton candy, Observe and Report is like razor blades - what I’d call a “feel-bad” comedy. It’s dark, deeply twisted and the laughs come at a price.


Seth Rogen plays Ronnie, a mall security guard with allusions of grandeur. He’d like to think he’s saving the world one shoplifter at a time, but secretly his dream is to become a real police officer. When a pervert starts flashing women in the mall parking lot, Ronnie swears he’ll see the offender brought to justice… especially when he sees a chance to impress Brandi the perfume counter girl (Anna Faris). His bitterness takes hold when he is upstaged by a real cop played by Ray Liotta who is investigating the case. Realizing he’ll never live his dreams, the well-meaning Ronnie begins a downward spiral into his own personal “dark night of the soul”.


observereportpic1Though the overall story seems pretty light – mall cop seeks justice against a harmless flasher – the film goes into very, very dark territory. Ronnie lives at home with his alcoholic mother, whom he has to tuck-in on the living room floor every night. He’s prone to depression and psychosis and when he stops taking his medication the real trouble begins. Our so called hero does his share of villainy, though the fact that he always feels justified in his actions gives him some redemption. He smashes drug dealers and skateboarders alike, goes on a massive drug bender and stages a rampage against the cops – all in the name of his own brand of justice. One of the most disturbing scenes involves him having sex with Brandi, despite the fact that she is practically unconscious and lying in her own vomit… This is where it went too far for me. It’s not every day that a films protagonist performs an act akin to date rape.


It sounds insane to say that throughout all of this, Ronnie is actually kind of likeable. I guess that is a tribute to Seth Rogen’s performance, as he adds some layers to his usual bumbling persona. He lends an innocence and vulnerability to the character that is necessary given the absolutely horrendous choices he makes. Anna Faris is suitably bubble-headed as Brandi, and Ray Liotta oozes superiority and menace. The movie does have something to offer in terms of performances if you can stomach the dark humor.


observereportpic2This is the kind of movie that doesn’t usually come out of Hollywood and has more in common with Deniro’s Taxi Driver or the Michael Douglas movie Falling Down, than Rogen’s previous work in Judd Apatow comedies. The only tip off is the neat and tidy bow that gets tied around the ending, tidying everything up in a very Hollywood, very unrealistic way. Let’s just say that in real life the mall flasher wouldn’t be the only one getting carted off to prison.

Shocking, twisted and darkly funny Observe and Report comes with a reserved recommendation. It’s not for everybody but has some worthwhile moments.