Get Hard (2015)
Sometimes you need a hand to get hard.
It’s no surprise that the idea for the new comedy Get Hard originated when producing partners Will Ferrell and Adam McKay were discussing what the average person might do if they were suddenly seized from a nice, comfortable life and confronted with the prospect of spending a ten-year stint behind bars. Ferrell, who stars as a man in exactly that situation, recalls them, ‘spit-balling about what that moment would be like, if, for whatever reason, you found out that you were going to prison,’ with Ferrell laughing, ‘I’d be killed immediately. Or I’d be someone’s bitch.’ Directed by Etan Cohen — making his feature directorial debut following a successful writing career, with credits including Tropic Thunder (2008) — Get Hard is anchored by the inspired pairing of the absurd Will Ferrell, Step Brothers (2008), and motor-mouth Kevin Hart, Ride Along (2014), and shares noticeable parallels to the 2007 Rob Schneider flick, Big Stan.
In Get Hard, Will Ferrell plays James King, an entitled, oblivious Los Angeles millionaire working as a hedge fund manager who’s about to marry his boss’s gold-digging daughter, Alissa, (a smoking hot Alison Brie). However, things turn sour for King when he is falsely charged with insider trading and harshly sentenced to spend ten years at San Quentin State Prison with just thirty days to get his affairs in order. As King’s assets are frozen, he is placed under house arrest — confined to his Bel Air mansion — and with limited options, asks his boss, Martin (Craig T. Nelson), and slippery corporate lawyer, Peter Penny (Greg Germann), to try clear his name. King later crosses paths with Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart), the black guy who washes his car, and comes to the racist assumption that Darnell has done hard time — which is far from the truth, as Darnell is a squeaky-clean family man. Understandably offended, Darnell tries to set James straight but the disgraced financier is too wrapped up in his own escalating panic to listen, offering Darnell thirty-thousand dollars to whip him into shape so that he won’t be eater alive — or raped repeatedly — in prison. Darnell — saving to open up his own car cleaning business — quickly does the math and freely plays along, seeing as James is stupid enough to run that stereotype and willing to pay Darnell for the mentoring he believes he can provide.
Treading some tricky territory, Get Hard essentially revolves around the subject of prison rape and spends about fifteen minutes merely reminding us of that fact. As per the title suggests, what King really fears most is being raped in prison, so Darnell puts together a three-week program that deals with every frightful possibility of penitentiary life — including learning how to fight, making shivs, and acting tough — transforming James’ house into something resembling a maximum security detention center, complete with floodlights and barbed wire, enlisting James’ extremely willing household staff to treat him like dirt — for his own good, of course. This Prison Life 101 crash course brings about some of the flick’s finer moments. An amusing scene where James practices his ‘trash-talk,’ recording threatening phrases based around sexual assault, including the line, ‘I’m gonna put a hashtag on your ass and see how many hits it gets,’ works to Ferrell’s improvisation strengths. Similarly, Hart’s acting virtues are highlighted when a role-playing Darnell runs around the clueless James, in a fake prison yard, portraying three different types of crooks.
After Darnell realizes that James is unlikely to win at intimidation, fighting or defending himself, he turns to what he believes might be a more realistic option — given King’s personality and limited skill set — and braces him for the likelihood of having to trade sexual favors for a smidgen of protection. This leads to the film’s most gratuitous scene, where Darnell takes King to a gay bar. Here, King attempts to overcome his fear by giving a middle-aged man a blowjob in a toilet stall and we are subjected to some lowbrow humor and a graphic sexual gag involving a semi-flaccid penis. Alas, the obvious stereotypical portrayal of homosexuals in the mainstream is still startling. The picture’s sensitivity to race isn’t much better either as next up, King attempts to join a white supremacist fraternity at Darnell’s request, then bonds with a black gang after Darnell reluctantly calls his cousin Russell, a bona fide, gold-chained gangsta, and leader of the Crenshaw Kings — played by three-time Grammy Award winner Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris — in order get King some protection while on the inside. After winning the gang over by teaching them the tricks of his trade, King gets the nickname ‘Mayo’ — yes, it’s that kind of film. The flick’s last act strangely turns into a buddy-cop affair when King and Darnell plan to track down the real culprits of the insider trading scam and concludes with a number of penis related puns centered around the picture’s double-entendre title, Get Hard.
Although some of this might sound horrendous and distasteful on paper, Ferrell and Hart are gifted comic performers — possessing a solid rapport with one another — and succeed at generating a handful of decent laughs whilst shedding some light on tough subjects such as racial discrimination and income inequality along the way. For instance, production designer Maher Ahmad, The Hangover Part III (2013), incorporates different high-and-low imagery to help convey some of these ideas. This is particularly evident in the film’s opening sequence where James and Darnell arrive for work at the same address, but take drastically divergent paths with visual images conveying their dissimilar social status: James rides the escalator up to a sunlit suite with huge windows while Darnell descends into a shadowy sub-basement for a day of washing cars. Furthermore, while set around a ‘homophobic’ premise which could be perceived as offensive, the picture never takes itself too seriously or comes across as mean-spirited or hurtful in any way, mainly poking fun at panicky straight guys for the most part.
Lowbrow by nature and design — the flick sports a somewhat cheap aesthetic given its prolific stars — Get Hard isn’t without its cringe-inducing moments. In spite of this, the film is a relatively amusing, somewhat uneven satire, which is based around some touchy subjects with screenwriters Jay Martel and Ian Roberts — who pen television’s Key and Peele (2012) — and Etan Cohen tirelessly shifting from one bad-taste scenario to the next. Even if some of the jokes wear thin by the feature’s final act, raw energy alone saves Get Hard from simply existing as a racist, Big Stan rip-off. Look out a surprising cameo by the multiple Grammy Award winning John Mayer, who displays his comic flair, appearing as himself at James and Alissa’s over-the-top engagement shindig.
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Get Hard is released through Roadshow Entertainment Australia