Observe and Report

Posted on September 22, 2009 at 7:00 am

I have no affection for this movie but I have to admit to a grudging admiration for its willingness to be awkward, intrusive, and disturbing. A stark contrast to the similarly-themed and similarly plotted Paul Blart Mall Cop of just three months ago, this could easily have been a raunchier take on the same easy targets — mall shops, mall music, mall food, and mall shoppers as a proxy for an America that is soft in the middle and narcotized by things that can be bought by credit cards.

But writer/director Jody Hall (of the cult favorite “The Foot Fist Way”) makes comic movies with so much edge they can give you a paper cut. He does not go for the easy laugh that makes you feel good about yourself, you know, the one that lulls audiences into thinking that their families are not dysfunctional, just quirky, and that their pain makes them authentic and charming. This movie is funny but it is upsetting and very dark.

The overall structure of the movie is very much like the mall cop movie of just three months ago, “Paul Blart.” Both are about would-be policemen who take our their frustration with petty enforcements when they are not mooning over a pretty mall employee.

But where “Paul Blart” was cute and gentle, “Observe and Report” is harsh and bleak. There are no cheery pop songs on the soundtrack to let us know they are just kidding. And there is not much in the way of lessons learned or getting in touch with the life force. Seth Rogen plays Ronnie, a sad, lonely, and angry man who is borderline delusional. He lives with his alcoholic mother. He yearns for Brandi (a fearless Anna Faris), who works at a department store cosmetics counter. He bitterly resents Detective Henderson (Ray Liotta), who is assigned to investigate reports of a flasher who has been harassing women in the parking lot. In a subversion of the usual movie tropes, he decides to ride to the occasion and resolve the flasher case himself as a way of proving himself. But his instincts are skewed and he makes a series of poor judgments and expensive mistakes that are played for comedy.

Rogen, Faris, Celia Weston as Ronnie’s mother, and Michael Pena as his second in command manage the difficult material well, but Hall is more adept as writer (and selector of esoteric songs for the soundtrack) than as a director. The tone may be even more harsh than intended just due to an uncertain control of narrative and character. Hill says he was inspired by Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” and “King of Comedy,” but he needs to do a bit more observing and reporting of his own to make sure he understands what makes those movies work.

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40 Replies to “Observe and Report”

  1. Hi Nell–Don’t know if you have read my review yet, but it sounds like we are nearly on the same page. The difference is I actually found its darkness to be its most attractive attribute. By being so fearless and unapologetic, the movie stands apart and is far more memorable from overly conventional, predictable studio comedies like “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” Love reading your reviews each week as always!

  2. I read your review first thing this morning, Dustin, and enjoyed it very much. You’re right that even though we disagreed on its merits, we agreed entirely in our analysis. I respected its defiance of convention but did not enjoy it. I will be interested to see if it gets an audience.

  3. What exactly is the female nudity and is it severe?? Is it an instant or a full out scene?

  4. I agree with your first sentence 100%, Nell.
    Dustin: Nice write-up.
    Although you two are highlighting the similarities in your reviews (Nell’s review earns a “splat” at RT, and Dustin’s a “fresh”), I’m struck by the stark differences in the reviews I’ve been seeing. A critical split often signals the best kind of movie, the ones that provoke conversation. But I’m not convinced “Observe and Report” is one of the better films in that class. Some of the favorable reviews see the film as a dream, which is possible, I suppose, although you know a film’s on shaky ground when some of its biggest admirers resort to the “it was all a dream” explanation to justify bizarre tonal shifts.
    Again, I’m not in the “pro” camp on this film, but I can’t say it didn’t make me laugh heartily a couple of times. (Chris Orr’s review reminds me of a Chik-Fil-A line that convulsed me in the theater, but which I had forgotten a day later.)
    I’m open to the possibility of changing my mind about this film down the road, on the condition that Hill’s future work helps me put this film in perspective in ways that aren’t yet possible.

  5. Unquestionably the best thing about the movie is that it provoked this exchange and others like it. I really enjoyed reading through a lot of reviews to see what other critics thought. Like you, Christian, I am open to reconsidering the film. But at the moment, I am coming down on the side that the most puzzling aspects were the result of incompetence, not complexity.

  6. Here we go again with another example of this pathetic double standard of showing male genitals but no female frontal nudity. It has become a redundant, disgusting display once again. I realize why gay males and females enjoy this garbage but I am shocked by the non-caring, submissive males who have been conned into thinking that this trash is acceptable and continue to go see it. Pathetic !!!!!!!

  7. There was a scene in this movie where a cop, who was supposed to be observing from a closet while Rogen’s character got some hilarious bad news, comes out prematurely. “I thought this was going to be funny,” he says, leaving. “But it’s just sad.”
    I’m with him. From the middle of the movie onward, the audience didn’t laugh, where clearly they were supposed to. The movie felt like it slipped out of control several times. When Rogen’s mall cop shoots a crazy flasher, it almost makes sense. His delusion has accelerated to total detachment, and thinking he’s a hero, he commits violence far out of proportion to the circumstances. But, no. The perp’s ok, and Rogen gets a hero’s reception from the cops he just beat to a pulp. (All the acts of violent and serious crime are carried out by the mall security people.)
    This isn’t a horrible movie. There are some strong performances, and some really funny writing. People in low-paying jobs (as well as high-paying) can be quite vicious, and the script protects no one. Collette Wolfe, as a picked-on employee, was a quiet scene stealer. In the end, it seemed like it WAS going to turn into a Mall-comedy-Taxi Driver, and it went for something else.

  8. Tim, I think we’ve said as much on this subject that can be said so I am going to ask you to stop posting on this topic. It is much more complex than simple parity. The female nudity in the film is anonymous, objectified women whose only role in the story is to be pretty and semi-naked. They have no lines and do not play any part in the plot. The male nudity is not erotic or attractive. Neither women nor gay men are going to find him appealing. His nudity is intended to be shocking and funny. There are many reasons not to see this film, but the one you suggest is pretty far down the list. So I disagree with your characterization of the issue and with your interpretation.
    I welcome your thoughts on other subjects.

  9. That Tim1974 likes to post an awful lot about the supposed unfairness of male nudity (check out his posts on imdb.com!). I don’t know what that says about this guy that is so obsessed about male nudity. Is he unsure of his sexuality? This film, like many sex comedies these days, is actually biased against WOMEN, and presents them as sex objects and bimbos.
    What bothers me is the way this movie presents date rape as a joke. Rogens’s character has sex with Faris’ character while she is semi-conscious. Yuck! I will be avoiding this one, thank you very much!

  10. Wow you want Tim to stop speaking his mind? Why?
    And as far as female nudity being degrading to females because they are objectified, why is it you do not see male nudity as being degrading to males because they are ridiculed?
    And for that matter why is this even a spiritual site if you have such slanted views such as this Nell? Are you the owner of this web site, do you reflect the ethics of this website?

  11. Nell, you seem to always mention how women are objectified but never once have I read where you mention that this on going male exposure is objectifying men and is a double standard. Male nudity no longer is shocking, it is disgusting. I respect and enjoy your reviews but I do feel you present a bias when it comes to this topic dealing with males. And, as tiresome as it may be, if these writers/directors/producers continue to expose men in this manner than I will continue to bring up the point that it is redundant, pathetic and a blatant double standard. I am dissappointed in your lack of support for backing this injustice to males. However, I do have opinions on other shows as well and will share those from now on along with this topic until something is done to improve this inequality.

  12. Julie, I am glad to hear everyone’s views but when there is just repetition and accusation without engagement it stops being an exchange of views and I ask that we move on to another subject. As I have said many times, it all depends on the context. Nudity can be beautiful, it can be sexy, it can be offensive, it can be comic, or it can be inspiring and yes even spiritual, presenting humanity (and not just “pretty” humanity) as one of God’s great creations. It all depends on the way it is presented. In this movie, the female nudity was objectifying and the male nudity was not. Nudity presented comically is not the same as being ridiculed. I am not a fan of this movie, as my review makes clear, but it is the very un-ridiculed aspect of the nudity, the fact that the flasher is so unembarrassed and so thoroughly enjoying his nudity that constitutes the intended humor.
    Everyone’s views seem slanted to everyone else at times, and that is especially true for someone whose job is to express opinions. My job on this website is to express and explain my views. It was in part my disagreement with other critics that led me to become one myself, so perhaps you will do the same.

  13. Thanks, Allison. The Association of Women Film Journalists has a thoughtful discussion of the scene that many people are characterizing as date rape and I will write more about that soon. I agree with your decision to skip the movie!

  14. I don’t get it, you said nudity presented comically is not the same as being ridiculed.
    The top Google result for ridicule is as follows,
    Web definitions for ridicule
    ridicule – language or behavior intended to mock or humiliate
    Further more the top Google definition for mock,
    Web definitions for mock
    treat with contempt; “The new constitution mocks all democratic principles”
    It seems to me ridicule would be the correct word, that’s my opinion, a word I noticed you didn’t use, your comments above after all are only your opinions, correct?
    Anyways, are you the owner of beliefenet.com, you did not answer this question.

  15. Forget my comment about the word opinion, you did state that it was your opinion, I was mistaken.

  16. Nudity presented comically is not the same as being ridiculed as the definition you are citing proves. To ridicule is to humiliate, insult, or denigrate someone for comic effect, as you said, to treat with contempt. The flasher in this film is not treated with contempt or ridicule. He is a comic figure in part because he is not humiliated or denigrated. His purpose in the plot is to represent the freedom that the main character both wishes he had and is very threatened by. I am not sure why you think he was a figure of ridicule, but if you have seen the movie and have evidence to support that view I’d be glad to hear it.
    And I am not sure what you are asking for with your question about Beliefnet. I am responsible for and own the content on my portion of the site. Is that what you wanted to know? What is your point?
    Please keep in mind that the requirements for posting comments here include courtesy and respect, two qualities that are also required by spirituality and ethics, at least in my opinion. You will do your point of view more good and pay it more honor by assuming the good intentions of the other side.

  17. Good conversation I suppose-If you don’t want to see the nudity don’t go to an R rated film. Now I love female nudity and yes I am a guy . However, have you ever seen a mainstream movie with extensive labia -would you give it the same rating as you did with observe and report if the flasher was a shaved female with her vagina exposed for an extended period, even if in a comic setting? I would bet not. This movie was not worth my time and just shows how out of touch Hollywood is with their male targeted audience for this genre. I would bet they would lose the female targeted audience if they showed profuse vagina in sex and the city. Last I checked there were many more straight guys who actually enjoy women then the opposite. I believe the movie was targeted to men. Interesting at the lack of female nudity in it as it was r rated and didn’t hold out any other stops. Is there a reason they refuse to show the vagina in mainstream to such an extent? Watchmen and this movie sure have a lot of imbalance to them. And why does it bother some women so bad when men complain about the lack of labia in mainstream movies-unless you are repulsed by your own anatomy or not in touch with your own sexuality. I am looking for the day that I can go to a good movie with good acting and yes uninhibited female (and male for my wife) nudity. Until then it is afterdark cinemax.

  18. He is being used as a stereo type, men that flash and threaten women, this is a mockery of men in a whole as a stereo type.
    It is a behavior intended to mock the male sex, you can understand that, how many men practice this trait in reality, it is probably a relatively low number.
    As for the nudity issue, it’s not so much about that as it is about dehumanizing others, something I’m glad to see you can recognize about objectifying women, however you seem to miss it when the male sex is mocked by this stereo type, I’m just wondering how it is a spiritual person misses this point?
    As for assuming the worst about you, I only made a mistake about what you wrote, have you never made a mistake before?
    We’ll I make lots of mistakes, but I admit when I’m wrong, or “I’ve missed something”.
    That’s a good trait to have, don’t you think Nell.

  19. Julie, I am sorry my remark was not clear to you. It was not the mistake you made and apologized for that I was commenting on. I was referring to your overall accusatory tone, for example, your jumping from our disagreement about the portrayal in the film to questioning my spirituality and ethics. I find that inappropriate. It is distracting, irrelevant, and discourteous.
    If I see nudity — male or female — that is objectifying or insulting in a film, I will note it in my review. I don’t like to spend this much time defending a movie I am not recommending in the first place, but as much as is wrong with this film, it is not guilty of the particular crime you are accusing it of. Not much in most films represents most people’s experience; that is not the determinative issue. The movie does not suggest that flashing is standard behavior; on the contrary. The character is not there to mock the male gender any more than any of the other characters, including drug dealers, unethical cops, drug abusers, a thief, an abusive and bigoted employer, an abusive and bigoted security guard, and, for the female characters, an alcoholic who sleeps with her son’s friends and a dim-witted drug-taking girl who seems willing to sleep with anyone. If you do not like or are disturbed by male nudity in a film, that is your choice. But it is not inherently contemptuous; criticize it for the right reasons. And if you are concerned about offensive stereotypes you should focus on the rest of the film.
    Have you actually seen the film, by the way?

  20. Interesting question, Mark! But you cannot separate the issue of nudity from culture and history. Could there be a believable plot about a female flasher? Not in the same way. Could the kind of female nudity you describe be portrayed in a comic way as the (clearly un-sexy) flasher is in this film? It would be tougher. Part of it is logistics, too. You can see what men look like when they are walking around but it is difficult to get the kind of view you describe without being a gynecologist. I’m glad you and your wife have found a place that gives you the kind of movies you are looking for and appreciate your comment.

  21. I think you missed Julie’s point, she did not seem annoyed with the nudity.
    Julie wrote,
    “As for the nudity issue, it’s not so much about that as it is about dehumanizing others, something I’m glad to see you can recognize about objectifying women, however you seem to miss it when the male sex is mocked by this stereo type, I’m just wondering how it is a spiritual person misses this point?”
    Sorry mom I will have to disagree with you on this one, even if over all I think you do a good job with your reviews.

  22. Thanks for a great comment, Ryan! Julie used terms like “contempt” and “ridicule” and “degrading” to describe the nudity, which seems stronger to me than “annoyed.” She said, “why is it you do not see male nudity as being degrading to males because they are ridiculed?” That sounds like an overall objection to male nudity to me. And I completely disagree that the portrayal of the flasher is a stereotype or a comment on the male gender as a whole.
    There is a big difference between having nude women appear in a film just to be naked, as characters with no lines or names or roles in the story, with “idealized” bodies and having a man with a very un-idealized body who does play a character with a significant role in the movie appear naked. As I have said many times, it is all about context.
    In a different example, I would say that the nude man in “Sex and the City” was objectified (though I do not think degraded), but that appearance was making an entirely different point and was a specific comment on the kind of objectification of female nudity in many films. My whole point to Julie was that the male character in this movie was not “mocked by the stereotype” or dehumanized (at least no more than any other character in this harsh comedy). So perhaps we still agree.

  23. Sorry, this one we will just have to agree to disagree.
    Thanks for the reply though.
    As a male I disagree with Julie, although I can see her point, I enjoy objectifying women, and women enjoy objectifying men, it’s what we do as humans.
    I do feel that the movie industry shows a different standard as far a nudity goes, it seems they are trying to see their way to being politically correct be demonizing men such as me for my sexuality, why is that politically correct when all i am doing is what nature intended, reproduction.
    Any ways the movie industries are actually collapsing at this point in time, I read an article saying the MPAA which is funded by the major movie studios had to cut its work force by ten percent this year due to a lack of funds, I wonder why if they are hurting so bad they still insist on alienating men such as myself? Maybe because the movie studios are trying to make movies by statistic formulas to appeal to as large an audience as possible instead of by a target audience, but whatever that’s just my speculation.
    Anyways female nudity could probably be done as a joke fairly easy in the same regards as Observe and report, I think a nude Rosanne Bar would be very cosmical, and women do act on their sexual instincts just as much as men, just look at some of the teachers who have been fired for sleeping with their students.
    But that once again would be stereo typing, just as Julie had stated, and I agree with her on that, it would be a stereo type to make a movie where the teacher sleeps with her student, but when it comes to a flasher it is simply a stereo type because they picked a man,had they picked a woman it would not be a stereo type.
    I hope this explains a bit why I disagree with you on this subject.
    Any ways, I enjoy your reviews even if we don’t see eye to eye on this subject, you provide me with a good look at the movie before I go to see it so I can decide if I wish to give them my money or not.

  24. Thanks again, Ryan, for a thoughtful and candid explanation of your perspective. I think you are right about movie studios trying to appeal to the broadest possible audience — that is why the edgier work is done in independent films. And I like having readers who don’t agree with everything I write! More important to me than having people know whether I like the movie is having them be able to get an idea of whether they might like the movie. Thanks again — I really appreciate your comment.

  25. Mark,
    “My Bloody Valentine 3D” had a very extended scene of full frontal female nudity, with an actress that was almost completely shaved down below (I would say 99% shaved), so her genitalia/vulva was visible. She was shown fully nude, in a non-objectifying manner, from just about every angle imaginable for close to 10 minutes, and the movie was in 3D. It was in theaters back in January, will be released on DVD next month, and was a huge hit with men, as well as (surprisingly) women.
    Hopefully, Hollywood will learn from the Valentine movie and start showing more full frontal female nudity in the same manner, but in the meantime, we should let Hollywood know that topless female nudity is not the same as full frontal male nudity by boycotting movies such as Observe and Report.

  26. Interesting to me that the absence of extensive female nudity is a reason to boycott a movie but not hideous and graphic torture, butchery, and murder? And the nudity is “non-objectifying?” How about the entire premise of the movie?

  27. Duh. You want Hollywood to show more full frontal female nudity, but you think we should all boycott anything with male nudity? What a hypocrite you are! It’s all about men, isn’t it?

  28. Nell, you continue to miss the point. Yes, there are many problems presented in movies that need discussion but it is the continual showing of male frontal exposure and continual lack of female frontal exposure in numerous films which is the problem. I realize you both refuse to acknowledge this disparity nor even consider it a problem. However, it does exist and it is certainly a problem. I find it interesting how many find reasons/excuses for why it is fine to expose males but even the thought of having females exposed in the same manner is just out of the question. That is a double standard.

  29. Thanks, Tim, but I think we will both continue to feel the other misses the point. I do not believe it is an apt comparison or a double standard and I think those who focus on this issue to the exclusion of others are overlooking context that is essential for understanding what you think of as a disparity. Disagreeing is not the same as a refusal to acknowledge something.
    I appreciate your concerns but I am going to stop further discussion of this issue because it is tangential to the focus of this site and the discussion has gone as far as it can without descending into repetition without illumination. You are more than welcome to provide comments on other relevant matters.

  30. Nell, thank you for your imput. it is clear that we are most definitely on opposite sides of this discussion and I agree that having us continue would be of no point. However, I must also say that when these films continue to show male frontal exposure without female frontal exposure I will continue to express my displeasure with what is being shown and continue to call for equality. As always, I will do so without name calling or trying to degrade anyone who feels differently. I will express my opinion and leave it at that. To me, this is one of many major issues and I can not allow it to be set aside quietly. Once equality is reached, then I will be turning my attention to other issues of concern in films. Thank you for allowing the freedom of expressioin as I will continue to adhere to the form of commenting only on what the film has displayed.
    On a different note, I do want to mention that I like your format here and the extras that you provide. I like the contests offered and the discussion on various topics related to the films.

  31. The reason for the boycott is because this movie is aimed at a male aged 18-34 demographic (my demographic) yet I’m a hypocrite for saying it didn’t have as much female nudity as male in it? I’m not asking for male nudity to be abolished. If there is to be male nudity, it should be done in a movie that targets females. “Sex and the City” had full frontal male nudity in it, and I was perfectly ok with women seeing this movie. I read an article that said women in theaters started to applaud when the male was shown nude. Great, I’m happy for women. If the male nudity in Sex and the City made women happy, made them feel good about being women, gave them a little bit of a thrill, fine. I’m glad to hear this. Why would I not want women to feel happy, good, and thrilled?
    Now imagine if that movie showed full frontal female nudity very explicitly, but the men in the movie were shown briefly with their shirts off. Wouldn’t women feel angry at this? Wouldn’t they urge a boycott of the movie and state that a movie aimed at women shouldn’t show something like that? Of course they would. So what is wrong about calling for a boycott of a movie aimed at a male demographic that showed male nudity very graphically without an even amount of female nudity?
    This is why I enjoyed the Valentine 3D movie. It was a movie directed at the same demographic as this movie, but the Valentine movie had all elements that this movie lacked – a better storyline, plot, action, and an extended scene of full frontal female nudity. Why is it so wrong for us males to want to see full frontal female nudity, as opposed to topless only female nudity, in movies directed at us?
    If you had watched the Valentine movie, you would’ve noticed that the scene was non-objectifying. In fact, the scene was almost identical to the beginning scene in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” with the genders reversed. In the Marshall movie, a male is shown dumped by his girlfriend while completely nude. In the Valentine movie, a female is shown dumped by her boyfriend while completely nude. Women justified the male nudity in Marshall by claiming the scene was an emotional breakup scene done in a comedic way. Yet, the scene in the Valentine movie was exactly that – it was an emotional breakup scene done in a comedic way. In fact, this scene got the biggest laughs in the theater, while at the same time, people were quiet and fixated on the emotional aspect of the scene as well (you could literally hear a pin drop if someone were to have dropped a pin during most of this scene). Even though the scene lasted a long time, it was done in a very respectful manner that it almost felt like she wasn’t nude to begin with.
    This is why I said it was done in a non-objectifying way, unlike other movies, like the R-rated “Halloween” (2007) which showed some very graphic, Penthouse-like depictions of female genitalia. Wouldn’t you rather have men look at female nudity in a respectful manner like in the Valentine movie, as opposed to an objectifying manner like in Halloween?
    But that’s not the real issue here. The issue is Nell and other women here are claiming that male nudity in movies like Observe and Report, Sarah Marshall, etc. is justified because it is funny and done in a comedic way – in other words, all we need to do to justify the male nudity is look at the context. On the other hand, to justify full frontal female nudity, we have to go beyond just the context and look at history and culture as well. Why must we go through so many hurdles to justify female nudity, but male nudity is justified by the context alone? This is what I don’t understand and only leads me to believe that some women out there are VERY self-conscious, insecure, and afraid of their own genitals, that they would not want any men looking at them, so excuses like context, history, and culture are brought up to suggest that there is never a legitimate reason to show full frontal female nudity. Why be so afraid, so embarrassed, and ashamed? Full frontal female nudity definitely draws in male movie goers, after all, movies like Observe and Report as well as “Walk Hard” were aimed at a male demographic, yet were complete box office flops, while “My Bloody Valentine 3D” and “Halloween”, also aimed at the male demographic, were very successful at the box office. The first two showed predominately full frontal male nudity in the films, while the latter two showed predominately full frontal female nudity. Coincidence?
    I do not wish to continue this discussion and don’t need anyone to respond to me, as I believe that I will be chewed out by women who will claim I am sexist and claim that topless female nudity should be good enough, etc. etc. etc. All I ever meant to say was full frontal female nudity ought to be shown in male oriented movies, and full frontal male nudity should be shown in female oriented movies, yet I am called lame and a hypocrite.

  32. Just to clarify my views so we can understand where we disagree — I think politics, history, context, and culture need to be considered with regard to the portrayal of both male and female nudity. I mentioned the comic context of the male nudity in contrast to the objectifying context of the female nudity; not to justify it, only to say that it was not a fair comparison. I don’t think you are lame or a hypocrite and I think that adults should see whatever kinds of movies they like, but I do not agree with the way you describe the issue.

  33. Thank you Nell for your response. While we may disagree with some aspects regarding this issue, I think we agree with a lot more than what we don’t agree on. I thank you for always being grateful in responding to everyone’s comments even though I’m sure you may be tired of always having to respond to this particular issue 🙂
    I thank you again.
    P.S. My comment about me being called lame and a hypocrite is regarding the user named “You Are Lame” above, not you.

  34. I can’t believe that we’re all getting worked up about nudity in this film when the brutal violence is the strongest material in the movie. And just to get the record straight, the movie, as a whole, does not objectify women.
    I actually wrote a review of Observe and Report on my Facebook page.
    With the success of the Foot Fist Way, about a mean-spirited karate instructor, writer/director Jody Hill makes his new film Observe and Report which shares one similar characteristic to Foot Fist Way, a dysfunctional and psychotic protagonist. Seth Rogen gives the performance of his career in his best film to date as Ronnie Barnhardt, a racist, bipolar, egotistic, violent, brave, and, surprisingly, kind-hearted overweight mall cop. In Observe and Report, a flasher has exposed himself to several women at a shopping mall and Ronnie views this as his opportunity to prove his ‘greatness’ by bringing the man responsible to justice. Taking advantage of the situation, Ronnie tricks a recent victim of the flasher, Brandi (Anna Farris), to have dinner with him. Following the dinner, is a sex scene which could be viewed as date rape due to the fact that Brandi is drunk, drugged-up from pills, and partially unconscious. Even a scene such as this that deals with a disturbing matter is turned into comedy when Ronnie momentarily stops his thrusting to check if Brandi is okay and Brandi responds by exclaiming, “Why are you stopping motherfucker!” This scene is one of the prime examples of the magic of this film in that it always kept me in a confused state as to whether or not to laugh uproariously or feel shocked. Another unconventional moment occurs when an actual police officer, Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), drops off Ronnie in a rough neighborhood as a practical joke and to teach him a lesson in that being a mall cop is not the same as being an actual police officer. When Ronnie is confronted by a group of muscular crack-dealers, I was again perplexed as to whether or not to be appalled by how brutally Ronnie defeats them or laugh at how the situation turned against Harrison and fed more to Ronnie’s ego. However, no matter how big Ronnie’s ego is or how he always uses violence as the means to serving justice, I always felt sympathetic towards him. I think this sense of sympathy came from how well-intentioned Ronnie is, how alienated he feels, and his genuine ability to love. This feeling was illustrated in a scene where Detective Harrison plays a cruel joke on Ronnie by putting his hopes up in becoming an actual police officer and then telling him that he did not make the cut. Before Harrison gives Ronnie the bad news, another officer hides in the closet so he can have a laugh at how the pathetic mall cop has his hopes crushed. However when Harrison actually gives Ronnie the news, the police officer comes out of the closet, ashamed, stating, “I thought this was gonna be funny, but it’s actually kind of sad.” The film’s balance of comedy and sadness carries and builds itself to its psychotic climax that would be completely implausible in another comedy, but it makes only perfect sense in Observe and Report because it is only reasonable to Ronnie’s psychosis. Score:4/4

  35. Thanks, Nozomi. I like your review and I agree that the violence in the movie — in absolute terms and in context with the lack of consequences — is more disturbing than the nudity. I thought it was interesting that both you and Christian quoted the character who said he thought he was going to see something funny but it was just sad, a good assessment of the film.

  36. Sex is healthy. Obsession is unhealthy.
    Since some people cut and paste I’ll cut and paste and edited a little from another site.
    It’s wrong to ask anyone, male or female to be naked in a movie.
    Some will say that it’s a puritan view, those that say it’s a puritan view I say, let’s put your female family members nude for the world to see.
    You may not like it if your sister or mother is nude for the world. Masturbated to worldwide. That’s what people are asking of actresses when they insist on nude scenes.
    I won’t even go into the facts, that the girls would have to part their legs, have light shine on their vulvas , etc. to see what you want to see.
    We, as healthy humans, we have a sex drive, and we have a sense of moderation and modesty.
    (Please don’t talk about monkeys. We have evolved a bit in many areas).
    There are may reasons for the evolution of modesty (helps control disease, fights etc.)
    It’s fairly common knowledge that the majority of females that don’t have that natural modesty, in more cases then not, have been molested/sexually victimized. At the minimum, they have self esteem issues.
    Sure, you can find those that appear to be contradictory to what I just claimed, if you looked closer, you’d find abuse, molestation etc. Sometimes those memories are consciously or unconsciously repressed.
    It is wrong to exploit these women. And to be fair, it’s wrong to have nude men in film. Healthy men usually have this modesty too.
    I say the following with respect, not to be mean, but to open a door to health.
    People that obsess on nudity also usually have some problems, sometimes, they’ve been abused, at the least they are socially maladjusted.
    My advice is to seek to find out the true cause of your obsession for vulva on the screen. Obsessions are not healthy. It’s obviously taking alot of your time and energy. What is the drive for this posting on the internet about genitalia. It’s much deeper then looking for equality.
    If you were looking for equality, it doesn’t make sense to start w/ genitalia. It’d make more sense to start with salaries, roles etc. (for the film industry, similar issues outside the film industry).
    Having a sexual obsession is similar to hating someone, it’s a waste of time and energy. When you resolve a conflict with someone you hated, there is such a relief because all that negativity is gone. I’d look for the cause of this sexual obsession and deal with that. When you do, you can move on, grow, find balance and happiness.
    I stumbled on this conversation, I may not be coming back for replies as I am busy with work, studies and life in general. No disrespect intended if I don’t reply to replies.

  37. I didn’t find this to be a very successful attempt at comedy. I feel like the story is a serious one, if a bit ridiculous, and to make the film funny, the writer/director populates the world of the film with cartoon and stock characters to dance in the background. The movie doesn’t strike tones well, and the soundtrack was an obnoxious stand-in for dramatic moments. Wow, I think I hate the movie more than I thought I did.

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