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Review : Horrible Bosses (2011)

"Ever wish your boss were dead?"

Released (UK) 22nd July 2011, Rated 15. Runtime: 98 minutes (1 hours, 38 minutes).

Horrible Bosses (2011) - Bateman & Spacey

Official Synopsis: Three friends conspire to murder their awful bosses when they realize they are standing in the way of their happiness.

Director: Seth Gordon, Produced By: Brett Ratner, Jay Stern, Written By: Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley

Primary Cast: Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis

The Blue Corner - Pete

Blue Corner Review, by Pete

Added July 28th, 2011

Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train (brought to film and fame by Alfred Hitchcock) told the story of two random people meeting and agreeing to kill someone for each other, leaving no trail back as they had no association. A few movies since have used a similar plot, such as Throw Momma From The Train (directly referenced in this movie) – in this case, however, the plan is fundamentally flawed from the start as we’re talking about three close friends.

Director Seth Gordon is probably best known for the ‘rom-com’ Four Christmases, with this latest film also having the same issue of not quite fulfilling the potential of the premise. Just like Four Christmases, Gordon also affords a brief cameo to Steve Weibe – one of the two stars of his documentary King of Kong (highly recommended, for what it’s worth).

Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day play the three friends in question, each being forced over the edge by their respective eponymous bosses: Kevin Spacey, the bullying megalomaniac, Collin Farrel, the crazed coke-head, and Jennifer Anniston, the nymphomaniac. It’s the three bosses who get to be the best (and, at the same time, worst) characters, stealing every scene they get to be in – despite being the very characters the audience are/should be rooting to be killed, they’re also responsible for most of the laughs.

Bateman’s been screwed in the workplace by Spacey, doing all the work and getting none of the credit. After being looked over for the latest promotion (taken by Spacey as a second title), and threatened to be provided with nothing but shocking references if he were to quit, action’s needed. Sudeikis is happy with his job, but with his favoured boss-come-mentor passing away the company’s taken over by the son, looking like it’s going to be dragged quickly down by Farrell. Jokingly suggesting that killing each other bosses would solve their problems, Day comes on board after being blackmailed by his boss who had already been harassing him to the nth degree. Spacey’s had a chance at doing a similar role in the past, but for Farrell and Aniston, the characters really are a few steps away from what they usual play on-screen – they both make the most of it and certainly do the job well.

Motherfucking Jones (Jamie Foxx, but a wasted opportunity of a character) is paid to become their ‘murder consultant’ (not the original arrangement), recommending the Strangers On A Train approach for the three friends. Despite what we’re lead to believe from the trailers, the film isn’t really all about them murdering their bosses, instead being focused on how they could and their bumbling build ups – we also get to have Day save Spacey at one stage as he doesn’t know who he is. Perhaps killing off the bosses would cross a line with some in a comedy (outside of some older 80’s films, I’m not sure that it’s happened in many recent ones), so instead we have events conspiring for Spacey to shoot Farrell on his doorstep after he erroneously believes that he’s slept with his wife.

The three leads have a good repartee with one another, with some decent lines and play offs between them – Day’s character however seems to change from the one he plays at the start, being far more hyper after a coke-taking scene (justified during that, but he seems to remain pretty much the same even a day after). Bateman’s drag racing line, shown in every trailer, still managed to raise a laugh in the cinema, with the context of the scene allowing it to work despite presumably every person in the showing having seen it several times over already. It was quite possibly the biggest laugh of the outing.

The basic premise is quite dark for a comedy (then again, so’s Weekend At Bernie’s), and the film does fall into the usual pitfalls and problems dark comedies tend to have – the tonal changes can be quite jarring, and the more serious scenes that are required for the plot make it feel disjointed at times. The final scenes with Spacey being arrested and Day getting his revenge on Aniston seem something of a let down, trading the laughs for some attempt at stitching the plot together – Aniston’s the only one of the three bosses who doesn’t end up too badly from the whole affair, with a paid two week vacation for Day and a promise to behave seeming a far less severe outcome to the original plan.

Overall, not too bad (it did raise a laugh) but far from great – raised some laughs, but it offered more than it eventually served up, particularly given the quality of cast used for the three bosses.

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