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Observe & Report: Paul Blart Can Kiss Seth Rogen's Sizable Ass

Yes, Observe & Report is the second comedy about a mall security guard to come out this year (a fact Seth Rogen savagely mocked in his SNL monologue). However, if Paul Blart: Mall Cop was the Die Hard of mall security guard comedies (plotwise, at least), then Observe & Report is the Taxi Driver, and while I love me some Die Hard, O&R is infinitely more disturbing, and satisfying, and disturbingly satisfying. Depending on where your personal line is, this movie may not cross it, exactly, but it certainly walks up to the line and tasers you from a safe distance.

Director Jody Hill obviously has a love for unlikable main characters -- see Danny McBride in The Foot Fist Way and Eastbound & Down. (No, seriously, see them, unless you only like watching movies and TV shows about people you admire.) And in O&R he's managed to work his magic on Rogen, who plays mall security guard Ronnie Barnhardt, whose mall is plagued with a flasher, a thief, and meddling policemen who threaten to usurp his authority. We see Ronnie trash-talk his subordinates, racially profile several mall employees, have sex with a girl who is clearly too drunk to give her consent and savagely beat down several dozen people, including a gang of drug dealers, a group of skateboarding teenagers and, finally, an entire squad of policemen. While the first assault is in self-defense and actually comes off as more or less heroic, the second is gratuitously one-sided and played for laughs, and the last is tough to call -- by that point, Rogen's character is fairly crazed, but it's hard not to root for him, since you've traveled this far with him already.

Not everybody subscribes to the Church of Rogen. I found Knocked Up fairly bland, as it relied on me caring about a noncommittal Rogen and an overly serious Heigl. But here, Rogen isn't playing the ineffectual-yet-lovable schlub that seems to be his default character. He's actually playing... someone else. With his douchey haircut and his sweatpants-and-turtlenecks fashion sense, he transforms into a self-important gun nut, with no perception of the real world outside his bubble. Now, I'm not saying Ronnie is the new Travis Bickle, but he's definitely a delusional obsessive prone to acts of deadly violence. He's the product of a broken home, clinging to the tiny bit of power that he's managed to earn in the world. And that's before he goes off his meds. The aggressive behavior he exhibits both before and after that is arguably played for laughs, but is also clearly the product of some deep psychosis, likely brought on by his absent father and drunk mother -- the latter of whom, I have to admit, is one of the funniest parts of the movie, while still being a little bit sad.

But as dark as Ronnie's world is hinted to be, the movie is still a comedy, so it doesn't dwell on the badness too much, preferring to move on to the next bit of crazy. Its visual language seems to reflect Ronnie's bad-ass self-image: Awesome rock music plays over fight montages, training montages, drinking-binge montages, slow-motion escalator rides, night patrols and scenes of Ronnie stalking makeup counter girl Brandi, played to trashy perfection by Anna Faris. The film is also populated by a cast of hysterical actors: Michael Pena as Ronnie's lisping, Jheri-curled lieutenant; Jesse Plemons as the unsure security trainee; Ray Liotta as an older, crankier version of the cop he's played so often; Patton Oswalt in a small role as an unnecessarily cruel food court manager; Danny McBride's cameo as a crack dealer; and Aziz Ansari as the creepy mall vendor who rubs lotion on women when he's not feuding with Ronnie. So even when the ending descends into a naked, bloody mess, you'll still have plenty to laugh at.

Have you seen Observe & Report? Let me know what you thought about the film and Mr. Hill and Mr. Rogen in general below.

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