Observe and Report

"Listen, you fuckers, you screwheads. Here is a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the cunts, the dogs, the filth, the shit." Those are the thoughts that flicker through the head of Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. And that's pretty much what Seth Rogen is thinking as mall security chief Ronnie Barnhardt in Observe and Report, which is — I should point out — a comedy. Funny as hell, that's how demonic it is. Imagine Scorsese directing Police Academy. Fans of Paul Blart: Mall Cop who think Rogen and writer-director Jody Hill are dishing out more family-friendly sap are in for an ass-kicking. If you've seen Hill's work on The Foot Fist Way and HBO's Eastbound & Down, you know this is one twisted dude.

Props to Hill and Rogen for believing you can play anything for a hoot, including R-rated sex and violence. Right away you know Rogen isn't going for lovable. Hair cropped scary-short, Ronnie prowls gut-first through the Forest Ridge Mall looking for scum. Shoplifters and skateboarders piss Ronnie off, but his focus is on a flasher who thinks he can freely dangle his dick, especially at Brandi (a sidesplittingly slutty Anna Faris), the blondie at the makeup counter on whom Ronnie has focused his freaky lust. Ronnie mistakenly relies on his right-hand man, Dennis, played by Michael Peña, who is miles away from the drama of Crash, Babel and World Trade Center and having a ball.

All the actors ace it, but the movie pivots on Ronnie's battle with Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), the cop Ronnie wants to be. Liotta is Goodfellas tough, making no allowances for giggles. His mistake is to mock Ronnie, throwing him to a gang of vicious crackheads. It's this scene — in which Ronnie wields his flashlight like a police baton, beating his enemies bloody — that shows us just how bug-fuck dangerous and delusional Ronnie is. Hill is fearless at pushing hot buttons: date rape, shooting up and worse. Just know this: Rogen is nutso hilarious, nailing every note of mirth and malice. Even when Hill goes way too far, and he does, Observe and Report revels in creeping you out and making you laugh — hard.

From The Archives Issue 151: January 3, 1974