Get Hard – Review ****

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Firstly, it should probably be pointed out that if you are in the least bit offended by anything non-pc, then Get Hard will mostly likely not be the film for you. The new comedy by director Etan Cohen, featuring edgy funny-man Will Ferrell and king of the American standup circuit Kevin Heart, is so risqué on a number of taboo subjects – race and homosexuality in particular – that its gone beyond being offensive and become funny. For, if you approach this film with an open mind, you will indeed find it amusing.

James King (Will Ferrell) is a successful business man who has never had to want for anything in his life. Neither has he had much time for the ‘little’ men of the world – particularly if they are of a different colour to himself. So when, due to no fault of his own, he finds himself facing a lengthy jail sentence for fraud and embezzlement, it comes as more than a shock when he has to turn to Darnell Lewis (Kevin Heart), the black owner of a local carwash company, to teach him a few tricks in order to survive his upcoming incarceration.

There is a certain brand of modern day comedian, who feels that they can get away with just about anything they like, no matter how sensitive the subject. In Britain these people – like the controversial Keith Lemon – tend to appear on late-night television gameshows or sitcoms, playing in the early hours of the morning where they are least likely to be seen by those who would be offended. In America, where national television is still – to a large degree – kept family friendly, the most out-there personalities in the world of entertainment are restricted to cable and satellite networks like HBO – who screened the often sexually explicit cult series Sex & The City – or ‘R’ rated films at the cinema. American cinema has long been the purveyor of a certain type of ‘adult’ film which garners its laughs from endless strings of frequently unsubtle jokes based around laddish humour and schoolboy japes played out at the expense of everyone else. Such films as the Horrible Bosses series and We’re the Millers pushed the boundaries of good taste to the limit, whilst making stars of people like Zach Galifianakis and Jason Sudeikis. Ferrell and Hart, with starring roles in films like Old School and Little Fockers, have done the same.

Sex is usually the subject which is treated irreverently by these comedies: the result may be offensive, however it can often be dismissed with mild irritation by most. Racism – particularly that aimed at black people – or jokes at the expense of homosexuals however, are two dodgy subjects still considered largely unacceptable subjects for humours entertainment. Which, considering that they virtually form the whole basis around which Get Hard is based, it is perhaps surprising that the film is as funny as it is.

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It’s often true that if you take a subject like comedy – which can have a divisive power – so far in one direction, it can stop being offensive and become funny again. Such is the case with Get Hard. The fact that Ferrell’s character is such a bigoted snob, so blinded by the stereotype of what he believes Hart’s hardworking family man – and his relations – should be, that he misses the fact that they are actually – for the most part – the good guys, makes what could have been an offensive and cringe worthy comedy, often tear inducing and side achingly funny. As for the homosexual theme, well, though it takes the humour as close to the bone as possible, by the time the subject quite literally ‘raises’ its head, viewers will likely be past caring about any possible offensiveness and just lie back and enjoy it.

One of the film’s main surprises is that Cohen (along with co-writers Jay Martel, Ian Roberts and Adam Mackay) manages to spin out what amounts to one gag – namely the prepping of Ferrell for his impending prison term by the mild-mannered Hart – for over an hour and a half, without the humour or production dragging. A challenging task which they pull-off admirably.

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Get Hard is a reminder that where the subjects dealt with in some films are concerned – like the colour of your skin or your sexual orientation – many of us could do with being a little less uptight and enjoy the experience in the spirit in which it’s intended, as a bit of fun. Keeping this in mind we might all learn to get along a little better in real life as well.

Cleaver Patterson has been writing on everything from interiors to fashion for longer than he cares to remember. Now though he tends to focus on film - both old and new. Having contributed to several books on the subject as well as The Sunday Times Magazine, Starburst, Rue Morgue and Video Watchdog, he writes regularly for The People's Movies, Flickfeast and Film International websites. His film tastes veer towards classic horror from the 1960s and 1970s by studios like Amicus and Hammer, whilst his favourite remains the sublime Vincent Price vehicle Theatre of Blood.