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Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Horrible Bosses

Directed by: Seth Gordon

Produced by: Brett Ratner
Jay Stern

Screenplay by: Michael Markowitz
John Frances Daley
Jonathan Goldstein

Story by: Michael Markowitz

Starring: Jason Bateman
Charlie Day
Jason Sudeikis
Kevin Spacey
Jennifer Aniston
Colin Farrell
Jamie Fox

Music by: Christopher Lennertz

Cinematography by: David Hennings

Editing by: Peter Teschner

Studio(s): New Line Cinema
Rat Entertainment

Distributed by: Warner Bros.

Release date(s): July 8, 2011 (United States)
July 22, 2011 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 98 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $35-37 million

Gross revenue(as of publication): $74,367,000 (Estimate/Domestic only)


At the risk of sounding like everyone else at the moment, rest in peace to Amy Winehouse. Yesterday, we lost one of the greatest young talents in music today. Although she had a small output of two albums, Frank and Back To Black, she certainly made a positive impact on the music world and will be sorely missed. Some weekend, eh? Amy Winehouse is dead along with Anders Behring Breivik killing (at time of publication) another 92 in two separate attacks, one a bombing in Oslo, another an attack on a youth camp on the island of Utoeya. We've still got all of Sunday to get through! I'm half expecting a jet engine to land on my house! In other news, I am going to be seeing The Tree Of Life and hopefully Cars 2 this week, so the reviews will be coming in.

And so we go, another day, another comedy. Despite being glad of an invite to another press screening, courtesy of Daniel Kelly once again, I found myself trying to go in with an open heart. I just find that I have been seeing so many comedies that they have a tendency to overwhelm with how bad they are or underwhelm at how average they are. Daniel made a fair point whenever he mentioned how comedy is the genre which divides opinions and taste the most of all film genres. This'll be a short synopsis, for it is always better to sum up the movie in as little words as is possible without spoiling much of the plot. Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman) works for an abusive psychopath of a boss in the form of Dave Harken. Dale Arbus (Charlie Day) works for sexually abusive man-eater Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston). Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis) works for a sweetheart of a boss Jack Pellitt (Donald Sutherland), who treats him like his son, but things go belly up when he dies of a heart attack and his cocaine-addicted biological son Bobby (Colin Farrell) takes over. With the help of Dean 'Motherfucker' Jones (Jamie Foxx), the three plot to kill each other's bosses.

And so, there is your plot. It is all you need, for it is a movie strong enough to invite viewer's on the strength of this concept alone. By no means is it an entirely new concept (Hitchcock's Strangers On A Train could be seen as a point of reference), but the fact is that screenwriters Markowitz, Daley and Goldstein have approached the subject matter with care. Although it certainly contains some of the vulgarities which have become standard issue for mainstream comedies today, it's humour is far darker and actually has a bit of edge to it. Setting up the three leads as fundamentally nice people who decided that their lives would be better without these nasty people is a nice twist as opposed to the usual idea of bad people killing good people. The film's main strength is perhaps the way the cast is able to convey their characters and the story being told. Bateman in particular, but also Day and Sudeikis, are great at playing everyman characters with distinct personalities. Also, this is a trio that I would rather watch any day than a certain other famous comic trio doing the rounds of the box-office over the past few years. Praise must also be given to the bosses. Jennifer Aniston, who has not had the best feature-film track record although certainly a good television actress, is very strong as man-eating Julia, who is constantly in the ear (if not chewing on the ear) of Dale. The way she presents the character, with the right sense of tone and double entendres, is spot on for this character. Also, Colin Farrell, although having far less screen-time than the other two bosses, makes a strong impression as Bobby Pellitt. Despite being drastically different than his usual appearance, Farrell is not out of place as this slimy, greasy character with a combover, pot-belly and countless tics. The best role as a boss and in the film though is reserved for what is the best written character, with the magnificent Kevin Spacey playing Dave Harken. Almost like he is playing up the more menacing roles in his career (but not to tedious self-parody), he taps into the fine line of tension between humour and horror. Walking onscreen, Harken carries a powerful presence which puts you on the edge of your seat, and Spacey skilfully pulls off the character's dialogue to put the audience at ease, and then blasts you down to bottom of your seat. The essence of the film itself is nailed with the character of Harken and the performance Spacey gives.

That said, despite liking a lot of the film, it was hampered occasionally by a number of different problems. As I said, it contains the vulgarities expected of mainstream comedies. That, I have no problem with. What I did have a problem with was the fact that there were times whenever Horrible Bosses did deteriorate into 'tried and tested' trademarks of the mainstream comedy and didn't have the strength of it's convictions to remain in the black comedy domain where it so belongs. Also, there were times when the film was unnecessarily loud, not due to Christopher Lennertz's score even if he has done some terrible work for terrible films in the past, but because the whole movie's sound design caters towards excessive, boorish and with added OOMPH! as I call it, or as Kermode would say, PHWOAR! There really is no need for the film to sound like Transformers 3 whenever it is just a case of three guys trying to kill their bosses. Less is more! It is nowhere near as loud as The Hangover films, but it did suffer from these problems occasionally. Finally, the wrapping-up of the film came across as rushed and did not convincingly bring a close to an otherwise solid film.

Horrible Bosses has some horrible problems in it's sound department and attempts to appease the mass market and not have the strength of it's conviction. However, for the most part it is a pretty successful comedy, with a sharp script that's handled with care by director Seth Gordon, and an all-round strong cast of comic acting, particularly from Kevin Spacey. Alongside Bridesmaids, this film stands as among the strongest comedies to emerge from America this year and is a real pleasure to watch.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Relaxed (in dressing gown and it's near 3'o'clock)

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