Director: Etan Cohen
Stars: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart
2 (out of 5) Globes
It might not seem worth complaining that the Will Ferrell-Kevin Hart team-up “Get Hard” is sloppy and visually undistinguished. But it should be. Ferrell, at least, has a skilled director and writing partner in Adam McKay, who’s responsible for “Anchorman,” “Step Brothers” — the ones that aren’t paycheck soulsuckers. McKay inspires in his star craft and invention, and even knows how to make films look handsome. (Along with nailing the look of action cinema without sacrificing yuks, “The Other Guys” has one of the great purely visual gags of the last 30 years.) Knowing what Ferrell is capable of makes lazy tax write-offs like “Get Hard” seems all the more galling.
But there’s something else here that’s missing, but which every now and then winds up in the film anyway. At heart, this is a rude comedic riff on the state of race relations in America. Ferrell plays James King, a super-accountant for a mighty firm (run by Craig T. Nelson!) who’s busted for tax evasion (and, it seems, wrongly). The judge is sick of white-collar crooks heading to country club prisons, so she decides he’ll be the first thrown into the dregs of regular prison. James is in no way prepared for this, so he asks the guy who owns the company that cleans his Mercedes — Hart’s Darnell Lewis — to teach him in the ways of being tough. After all, he thinks, surely Darnell’s been to prison before. (He hasn’t.)
“Get Hard”s three writers — none of them Ferrell or McKay — don’t do much with this farcical idea beyond the initial idea that a privileged white guy would assume all non-rich black people are ex-cons. But they do try, a little. They keep putting James and Darnell into situations to play with not only their racial hang-ups but the audience’s as well. Darnell may have a clean record, but a relative (T.I.) is a Compton thug right out of one the ’90s rash of ghetto sagas — which, of course, James has never seen. Darnell, scrambling to protect his thin ruse, even passes off the plot of “Boyz N tha Hood” as his own life with James, none-the-wiser, fighting to hold back tears.