Horrible Bosses: 3.75/5
I would not be surprised if half of the people currently employed, and probably a high percentage not employed, hold some grudge against their boss. I’m sure there’s even a select few who have had occupational daydreams that revolve around the death of their boss. For as hypothetical as these pipe dreams may be, there is a morbid humor to them that was always destined to be the core of a rated R comedy. Horrible Bosses unapologetically takes on this inevitable venture. Not that the film had to work real hard to make us hate the three bosses our protagonists want to punish, but the antagonistic actors do a fantastic job of making their subordinates contemplate actual murder. In the eyes of Jason Bateman’s Nick, murdering his boss, a gleefully deranged Kevin Spacey, is justified after years of being treated like a lesser being and seeing a massive job promotion being squandered. The same can be said for Kurt (Jason Sudekis), whose happiness at work is interrupted by his boss’ death and the uprising of the douche known as Bobby Pellit (a raunchy, but hilarious Colin Farrell). Last but not least, for all murders happen in threes (…or something like that), we have Charlie Day as Dale. Dale is in a unique situation where his boss sexually harasses him. His boss is played by the gorgeous Jennifer Aniston. Surely Dale should be enjoying his time with a bombshell that yearns for his manhood, but he’s about to get married and isn’t interested in breaking his commitment.
So, death to those who sit atop the hierarchy! Each particular battle with the bosses is stocked with memorable moments. This isn’t attributed to the screenplay anymore than the cast. Actually, much of the film’s comedy stems from the cast’s deft ability at improvising. The most rewarding thread arguably belongs to Charlie Day as he battles Aniston’s sexual advances. Day is best utilized in moments that find his character in morally or intellectually claustrophobic situations. Needless to say, Horrible Bosses exploits this notion to a high degree. The manic tendencies of Charlie Day are absolutely gut wrenching as he wrings maximum laughs out of his outbursts. Bateman and Sudekis are solid, but Day puts the film over. If there was one big thing that I find detrimental to the film, it’s the lack of bite in the third act. Horrible Bosses takes a dark premise to a great length, but as it progresses it loses the edge it thinks it has. What was once a refreshing ride, bogs down in favor of an ending that would be better suited for a tame, politically correct audience. In a way, it’d be like George Carlin ending his “Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV” with a vaudeville routine. Despite the fangless approach to the final act, Horrible Bosses is a fun, morbid trip into the mind of disgruntled employees.
Red State: 1.5/5
The Westboro Baptist Church is an easy victim to attack. Their hate mongering, although protected, isn’t about spreading the word of god any more than it is to get in the paper and be controversial. Whatever their cause or motivation may be, there is a level of horror that resides behind the vile they spew and ultimately preach to their youth. Kevin Smith, a spotlighted enemy to the WBC, recognizes this and aptly applies their nature to the basic structure of a horror film. Well, maybe he doesn’t utilize a basic structure, but we’ll get to that. In Smith’s Red State, a clear departure for Smith who usually invests his clever dialogue into miniscule comedies, the WBC is emulated by the Five Points Church, a church that makes their disdain for homosexuals well-known. Led by the enigmatic Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), the Five Points Church has been getting by on its first amendment laurels, but underneath their legal rights rests a homosexual murder spree and an influx of custom firearms. The latter of which is an out-of-place plot point, but doesn’t come to bear until later on. The key here is that Abin Cooper plants his protests through murder. This disheartening truth comes to fruition after the sexual adventure of three boys ends with them being kidnapped by Cooper’s group of zealots. Under the impression the three boys are promoting the nature of sodomites and unscrupulous sex, Cooper and his people are looking to deliver death blows a la Hostel…except with more crosses and religious diatribe. Our introduction to the Cooper’s and their soon to be victims is the most compelling part of Red State. It’s frightening, visceral and feels morbidly entrenched in real life.
Unfortunately, this is the first twenty minutes or so, and the film falls off the rails from there. Whatever horror that could’ve existed is thrown to the wayside as a myriad of plot shifts are introduced with no regard for the viewer’s invested interest. Characters are killed and philosophical ramblings begin as the Five Point Church begins to use their massive infirmary of guns against a league of government stooges in the form of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Convention is erased, but coherence isn’t brought into the picture. Instead of inciting scares or rage, this “horror” film crashes and burns in a flurry of bullets as Smith can’t seem to decide on what perspective he wants to claim allegiance to. This is most notable when our psychotic group of church dwellers is victimized. Look, it’s an ambitious attempt to create a complex environment for all of the characters involved, but this lack of conviction for any position becomes grating as the film jumps around from point to point without going deeper into any given issue. Oddly enough, this isn’t the most irritating aspect of Red State. What is indeed the biggest issue is the horrible pacing. Sermons, gun battles and bits of dialogue stretch on to the point that they lose any zest they had and become tedious. When this happens, a film that’s supposed to be 90 minutes feels like it’s been stretched to the length of three hours. What the film could’ve been is clear, but what it became is unbearable.