Get Hard (2015)
“An education in incarceration”
Get Hard (2015)
Director: Etan Cohen
Cast: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Alison Brie
Synopsis: When millionaire James King is jailed for fraud and bound for San Quentin, he turns to Darnell Lewis to prep him to go behind bars.
Although the obvious historical counterpart to the screen partnership formed by Will Ferrell (Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) and Kevin Hart (This is the End, About Last Night) is the ‘70s pairing of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, Etan Cohen’s Get Hard is oddly reminiscent of Trading Places. That’s not so much because of the plot, but in the way that Ferrell and Hart’s relationship is similar to that of Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy in John Landis’s classic 1983 comedy. While Get Hard doesn’t even come close to Trading Places in terms of quality, it does have its moments – as crude as they may be – and definitely gets stronger as it goes on.
Ferrell is James, a highly gifted, yet strangely child-like stock trader who, it seems, just has to show up at the office to generate millions in revenue for his boss and future father-in-law, Martin (Craig T. Nelson – All the Right Moves). James lives in a fantastic mansion with his beautiful, if somewhat materialistically demanding, fiancé, Alissa (Alison Brie). He practices martial arts on the lawn with his personal trainer, and has famous musicians play at his birthday party. In other words – he’s heading for a fall. Meanwhile, as James buys and sells in his penthouse office suite, many floors below, struggling Darnell (Hart) toils in the basement car park. Darnell’s lot in life could hardly be further removed from James’; he lives in the gang-ridden neighbourhood of Crenshaw, worries over his sassy little daughter, who attends a school in which the kids are checked for guns before entering, and is beginning to despair of ever raising the $30,000 he needs to buy a decent house in a different neighbourhood.
The paths of these two men cross only when James picks up his car each evening, but when James’s life rapidly falls apart after he finds himself framed for illegal trading, it’s to Darnell, whom he mistakenly believes to be an ex-con to whom he turns. James has been given a month to sort out his affairs before beginning a 10 year prison sentence, and is growing increasingly concerned over the threat of daily beatings and worse in the harsh confines of San Quentin. He needs to toughen up fast, and believes Darnell can teach him how to survive life in prison.
Get Hard is what is known as a concept movie – a single idea around which a plot is fashioned once the studio green-light is received. It understands its’ target demographic and is specifically written to appeal to this identifiable group of people. In other words, it’s written for maximum profit rather than artistic merit, which invariably means catering for the lowest common denominator, as is evidenced by the surfeit of racial and gender stereotypes that infest virtually every scene in Get Hard (even that title is a big clue to the level of humour one can expect to). It’s a film that delights in its lowness, and which should be worthy only of our contempt – if only for its public toilet blowjob scene, which is clearly included for its controversy factor alone – and yet there’s no denying that parts of it are funny.
Much of its’ success is down to it stars, two men to whom many people seem to have a deep aversion, (Ferrell frequently has a place in Forbe’s annual ‘least profitable movie star’ list – often at its zenith), but who somehow manage to transcend their individual dislikeability factors and establish a strong chemistry together. There’s a charming unlikely innocence about Ferrell’s character, a man who possesses not one ounce of arrogance or malice despite being untouched by the realities of life. That such a character could exist in the real world is debatable, but then Get Hard isn’t concerned with reality; it’s the kind of movie in which a character appears unharmed one scene after goading three musclebound punks into a fight. Darnell is similarly concocted from an old-fashioned Hollywood formula – the one which resolutely refused to acknowledge the bad in anyone. He might live in Crenshaw, but Darnell’s record is clean, and his gangster cousin and crew are about as threatening as the Dead End Kids.
The humour is juvenile, and the stereotyping of characters and constant flippant jokes about male rape will no doubt offend many people, while encouraging others to jump aboard the creaking bandwagon of politically correct outrage simply because they feel that they should. But those who remember a time (not so long ago) when people wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at much of what goes on in Get Hard will probably enjoy it.
(Reviewed 22nd October 2015)