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March 27, 2015
Get Hard is a biting satire with heart, clearly inspired by comedies about class such as Trading Places (1983) and despite some edgy moments, it’s consistently laugh-out-loud funny. Putting together Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, two of the best comedians working today, is inspired and results in some fantastic scenes. The high concept plot is a great jumping off point from which they squeeze as much comedy as possible and the film is well paced, even if with a few wobbles.
The script is written by Jay Martel and Ian Roberts who both write for one of the best American sketch shows on television, Key and Peele, and the film indeed has several moments which feel like sketches but it also accomplishes the difficult task of not disconnecting the story’s structure. At its best, Get Hard has jokes loaded with meaning and those jokes are usually when the writers point their pens at the hypocrisy of the rich. There are a few controversial moments and these are also some of the film’s weakest ones. It’s bold and brave comedy and if it had just been a little tighter, this could have become a classic.
Ferrell plays James King, a privileged, out of touch, white-as-Mitt-Romney hedge fund manager who although oblivious to the world beyond his mansion, expensive car and massive office is essentially a good if utterly idiotic man. Kevin Hart plays Darnell Lewis, an enterprising but poor black man who just wants to move to a better postal code so his daughter doesn’t have to go through a metal detector before entering school. These two characters work in the same building but inhabit completely different worlds; King makes multi-million dollar deals in brightly lit and immaculate offices upstairs whilst downstairs Darnell tries to motivate the employees of his car wash business underground.
When King is wrongfully set up for fraud and sentenced to prison, he has 30 days to figure out how he is going to get through 10 years of hard time at the infamous San Quentin. Wrongly assuming Darnell has been to prison just because he is black, King enlists him to teach him how to toughen up so he can deal with prison life.
It is a little uncomfortable that the filmmakers decided to indulge quite so much on King’s fear of being sexually assaulted in prison. It could have primarily been about King getting beaten and stabbed which may not have felt quite so mean spirited. Some of these gags are the film’s weakest, including a slapstick sequence involving Ferrell with a man in a toilet which is brave and certainly goes for it fully loaded, but completely misses its mark.
Ferrell and Hart work brilliantly together and both have their moments of greatness, giving each other room in the same way that successful comedy duos of the past have done such as Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in The Odd Couple (1968).
Ferrell gives one of his better performances and fans of his work will not be disappointed. Watching him do capoeira is worth the price of admission alone. He is the master of commitment and this performance is a masterclass in seeing a comedian completely commit to his role and the insane situations he is put into.
Ferrell’s character could have been much more unlikeable in lesser hands but King is not mean spirited, just out of touch. Hart is charming, bringing his unique brand of self-deprecating humour to the screen successfully.
A scene where Darnell performs several different types of people King will find in the prison yard within the same scene at the same time is one of the highlights of the film. Another is a hilarious monologue delivered to King in front of his wife and child.
The supporting cast is overall great. Alison Brie and Edwina Findley Dickerson do quite a lot in a thankless roles, as the film surely won’t be passing any bechdel tests. Unfortunately, on the other hand, T.I. is not very convincing as Darnell’s streetwise cousin and leader of a group of gangbangers. The film does heavily rely on loose underwritten stereotypes across the entire cast which is partly why it’s had a fair amount of slack over such issues as homophobia and racism.
Scenes involving the members of the black gang in a rough neighbourhood, the Mexican cleaners in King’s home and in particular the gay community of L.A. are not painted with much complexity, however neither are the rich, white elite of King’s world (with a particularly spiky cameo from John Mayer sending up his douche reputation). The racist white biker gang (rightly) probably get the worst of it much like in TV shows like Breaking Bad and True Detective. The film’s saving grace however is that it does have a lot of heart.
Other than one or two particular scenes which in all honesty do leave a bad taste in your mouth (especially if taken out of context) and more importantly are not very funny, Get Hard is on the whole a very fun ride.
It was also interesting to see several gags set up early which pay off near the end of the film spectacularly. Although not a classic, if you enjoy Will Ferrell or Kevin Hart, it is good to see two performers at the top of their game, working very well together.
Get Hard is released in UK cinemas on March 27th