When a movie title that’s as obvious a double entendre as Get Hard gets approved by the MPAA, you know that subtlety will not rule the day — especially when the film stars two comedians like Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, who aren’t known for holding anything back.
With that in mind, Get Hard is a minor success. Ferrell plays James King, a financial mover and shaker who gets busted for moving and shaking other people’s money a bit too much. When a judge imposes a harsh sentence on him, he turns to Darnell (Hart), who owns a car detailing service, for help under the assumption that Darnell has had prison experience.
That racially motivated presumption sets the tone for pretty much everything that follows, as any and all clichés about race, sexuality, the rich and others are wholeheartedly embraced rather than shunned. Of course, that’s the goal: By putting these traits so boldly to the fore, the film is in a way trying to subvert any criticisms for including them.
For much of the film, that tactic actually works. Darnell turns James’ mansion into a makeshift prison, using the gardener, cooks and maids — all of whom are Hispanic, naturally — to act as tormentors. With no actual firsthand knowledge, Darnell keeps amping up the ridiculousness of the situations, which grows to include fighting strangers, trying to join a gang and even sexual submission.
Writer/director Etan Cohen and his co-screenwriters know that Ferrell and Hart aren’t afraid of profanity or vulgar situations, and they go for the gusto often. Get Hard is as hard an R-rated comedy as you’ll find, and yes, they can’t resist using the “get hard” joke, even if the scenario they choose for it is less than ideal.
It’s not until the third act, when the filmmakers try to wrap up the film in a tidy bow, that the story truly starts faltering. They drop plenty of clues about where the film is heading along the way, but pulling off the dismount proves elusive.
The film only works because of Ferrell and Hart. No one is better at playing a cartoonish character than Ferrell, and James is as over-the-top as they come. Though he’s good at being broad, too, Hart adapts to the straight man role well here.
In lesser hands — like, say, Adam Sandler’s— Get Hard would be tedious and unfunny. Though the film still leaves a lot to be desired, the one-two combo of Ferrell and Hart elevates it to something that’s not only watchable, but often hilarious. Just imagine what they could do with great material.