Thursday, July 2, 2015

"Get Hard": Racism and Rape Aren't Funny

Now Available on DVD and Blu-ray

I do not like Kevin Hart.  I find him to be obnoxious and irritating, only ever yelling and screaming in order to get a laugh.  I sometimes like Will Ferrell, but his cinematic track record is very mixed, often reliant on how far his avant garde improvisation makes its way onto the screen.  So I was not too enthusiastic to realize that in a slow film week at the beginning of July that I would be watching Get Hard, a buddy comedy where I already don’t like half of the starring duo, and the premise raised so many red flags that I didn’t see how this film could be any good.

Ferrell plays a stock market broker who gets sentenced to ten years in a maximum security prison, despite protestations of his innocence.  To help him survive on the inside, he enlists the help of his car washer (Hart) in order to train him in being tough.  Now, to the film’s credit, the obvious racial and socioeconomic clichés at work here are addressed head-on, as Ferrell only assumes that Hart has gone to prison based on the color of his skin, when in fact Hart is a lower middle class man who has never been to prison.  This thankfully means that Hart isn’t so much Ferrell’s actual savior but is only pretending to be for the compensation he’ll receive.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that the film actually finds funny situations to put its two leads in.  There are only two jokes repeated ad nauseam in the entire film: Ferrell doesn’t understand black culture, and prison rape is scary.  The first of these is handled with about as much tact as you could expect, with Ferrell making an ass of himself trying to be tough and dressing faux urban.  In other words, not usually very funny.  The second joke, though, is just never funny, treating the thought of grown men getting raped merely as a perpetual punchline, when it is in fact a serious real world problem that leaves physical and emotional scars.  Joking about rape perpetuates rape culture.  And this film isn’t helping.

But even setting the stale and offensive jokes aside, neither actor is given much room to comically breathe.  Like I said, Ferrell’s acting strength comes from his ability to improvise insanity, but his character is so tamely written that we rarely get to see his improvisational strengths shine through.  This may have been because Hart is not a great improviser himself, but that only highlights the fundamental weakness of pairing these two performers.  They have no chemistry, and the film suffers greatly for it.

It should be pretty obvious that I did not enjoy this movie.  I hate the tactlessness with which it handled its problematic subjects, I hate how the pairing of its two leads feels forced for maximum box office draw, and I hate sitting through a supposed comedy and never once laughing.  Don’t watch Get Hard.  It will leave you feeling disgusted with cinema and those who buy tickets to this slop.

Am I too hard on Kevin Hart?  Are there redeeming qualities to his performances?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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