Get Hard starring Will Ferrell & Kevin Hart has enough hilarious if isolated nuggets to make it just about worth your hard-earned time.
It seems odd that marketing-focused Hollywood executives would let slip through the net a title like Get Hard, which seems almost designed to cause social awkwardness. It’s actually quite difficult to drop into casual conversation that you rather fancy going to Get Hard tonight, so many will probably, and not unreasonably, end up referring to it as ‘the new Will Ferrell film’.
The identity of the director only produces more confusion for we easily-befuddled film fans. A quick initial glance might lead you to think this is the Coen Brothers’ latest comedy offering, perhaps along the dark and sublime lines of A Serious Man. Not quite. A closer look reveals that the ‘h’ has been migrated from ‘Ethan’ to ‘Coen’, giving us Etan Cohen in the director’s chair (apparently no relation). Etan Cohen, it turns out, has finally been handed his big break as director after amassing twenty years of unexceptional writing credits.
In the starring roles we have Will Ferrell (see: ‘new Will Ferrell film’) as rising star of the trading world James King, convicted to serve ten years at the feared San Quentin prison for alleged financial improprieties. Kevin Hart co-stars as Darnell Lewis, wrongly assumed by Ferrell’s white wuss to have done prison time, solely because of his racial origins, and tasked with getting the terrified yuppie ‘hard’ in the thirty days before his sentence starts.
Hart provides an energetic performance that’s fundamentally hampered by its implausibility. In playing the ‘straight man’ to Ferrell’s imbecilic and intermittently very funny buffoon (the case of whom demonstrates that typecasting can be a very positive thing) the performance needed to retain a semblance of realism, but on too many occasions the outcome is baffling nonsense. Certain scenes are so misguided and crude that you wonder how on earth they didn’t end up on the cutting room floor, or at the very least patched onto the end credits. These include Hart’s hyperactive attempts at playing multiple characters in a prison yard scenario and a scene where he decides that Ferrell’s only hope of surviving in prison is to become proficient in fellatio, marking a low point in a picture of admittedly minor ambition.
The thirty days of ‘getting hard’ are largely a montage of stupidity, with the nonsense escalating as the day of incarceration approaches. For the most part that kind of thing is the reason this film exists, so all well and good, but there really is no need for the clichéd and yawnworthy action-sequence conclusion. But our main gripe with Get Hard is that it’s yet another example of Hollywood’s current preoccupation with making heterosexual men commit homosexual acts in the name of comedy, a brand of humour that’s somehow become prominent in mainstream American comedy. If this film is to be believed, rife homosexuality is the main, and indeed often the only reason to be worried about a stay behind bars. The line between humour and homophobia is firmly crossed in this picture.
With Ferrell and Hart monopolising the screen, the only notable supporting roles are brief appearances by Alison Brie as King’s manipulative, vampish fiancé, who admittedly lights up the screen whenever present, and Craig T. Nelson as Brie’s Father in a stale performance aimed only at collecting his paycheque.
By now you’ll be thinking that we really hated Get Hard, but despite all that’s wrong with it the film still entertains thanks to the evergreen Ferrell, who sporadically produces the moments of comedic genius that his reputation was built on. Early on, instinctively fearing that he’s about to be mugged by Darnell, King has an emotional meltdown before explaining, as if in mitigation, that he would have behaved in the same way if his would-be assailant were white. King’s statistical analysis of Darnell, somehow simultaneously ludicrous and reasonable, that leads him to conclude that the latter has definitely spent time in prison, and the descent of his attempted ‘mad dog’ face into a more character-suiting ‘sad dog’ face are among the other comedy spikes that will raise a guaranteed laugh. It’s these hilarious yet isolated nuggets that make Get Hard just about worth your hard-earned time.
Words by Luke Ostler & Simon Evans
Directed by: Etan Cohen
Written by: Jay Martel, Ian Roberts, Etan Cohen
Starring: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Alison Brie, Edwina Findley, Craig T. Nelson
Released: 2015 / Genre: Comedy / Country: USA / IMDB