Etan Cohen, scriptwriter of 13 titles including Tropic Thunder, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Men in Black 3 under his belt, ventures into his first feature film. When the hedge fund Golden Boy James King is scapegoated for corporate crimes, he hires a garage owner Darnell Lewis as a coach to prepare him for the upcoming ten years in San Quentin – falsely assuming that Darnell, an African American, would have criminal backgrounds. Darnell sets up a replica of maximum-security prison in James’ mansion, arranges occasions for homosexual activity as rehearsals and in the end resorts to seeking protection from the Crenshaw Kings Gang for him. Despite some good self-mockery and justifiable political incorrectness which resonates with current affairs in the US, its comical moments rely solely on exaggerating all the stereotypes of race, class and gender before reversing them. The film’s faint attempt of breaking free of automatic categorisation and challenging social preconception ends up recycling other clichés, especially in roles such as the malicious sex-object fiancée or the feminised homosexual stalker. Under the disguise of racial harmony, it is in fact homophobia which unites the two characters – whom are enacted without much enthusiasm as well. It is especially unsettling to see that at the end of the film racial reconciliation is implemented only through financial sponsorship as a token of friendship and that Darnell’s success is only attainable through the white friend’s benevolence. With the frame often filled with Will Ferrel’s pantomimic face against relentlessly bland mise-en-scène, it is not only visually dull but also fundamentally old-fashioned.
Get Hard | Directed by Etan Cohen (US, 2014) with Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Tip ‘T. I.’ Harris. Starts May 7