Imagine a Kevin Smith film directed by Quentin Tarantino. Yeah.
Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen) is the head of mall security; Dennis (Michael Pe?±a) is his second-in-command. Ronnie’s dreams are small: protect the mall from riff-raff and scoring with the makeup counter girl, Brandi (Anna Faris). When a pervert starts showing customers how naked he is under his overcoat, Ronnie decides that his perceived ineptness of the police detective assigned to the case (Ray Liotta) is a call to action. As long as his heart is in the right place, who’s to say that Ronnie’s delusional and violent tendencies aren’t his best assets?
The trailers for this film play up the quirky moments of mock insight that Seth Rogen fields in the mind of his character, Ronnie. What’s missing is the level of mayhem in between these mentally-challenged leaps of logic that any sane person would recognize as going way too far. The scary part is that you can’t help want to see Ronnie succeed because he keeps surprising you with raw determination. In the end, the filmmakers pull off a rare thing: ending the moving exactly the way it should while still giving us the ending that we want.
The supporting cast also provides a harsh reality for Ronnie’s world. His co-dependent alcoholic mother (Celia Weston) makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time. Ronnie’s “expendable pawns,” John and Matt Yuen, typify why Ronnie gets away with his delusions; the Yuen twins are drawn to his leadership skills to the point that they both agree with whatever ludicrous idea pops into Ronnie’s head. Ray Liotta’s Harrison knows that Ronnie isn’t even in his league, but plays up the idea that it still bothers Harrison to even let Ronnie think he’s somehow gotten over on him. The actor playing “The Pervert” need not be mentioned here, because you really don’t want to know who’s name to associate with the image that will be burned into your retinas.
The film isn’t perfect, but is it intentionally a thinly-disguised critique on today’s society? Ronnie’s delusions come fully equipped with narration about his mall’s need for a hero, inspired by too many Sly Stallone and Ah-nold films about one man’s vengeance. The funniest stuff is also the most violent, often the use of excessive force for the most mundane crimes imaginable. The poor victims of these assaults will likely think twice before doing it again, at the very least not around these guys again. Be warned; this is a guy movie, but just because no one would want to actually BE Ronnie is no reason not to root for him.
(a two and half skull recommendation out of four)