Get Hard - Live Free or Get Hard

Matthew Parkinson | 27 Mar 2015 12:00
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Directed by Etan Cohen. Produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Written by Jay Martel, Ian Roberts, and Etan Cohen. Release date: March 27, 2015.

Filled with prison rape jokes, stupid faces, and erection euphemisms, Get Hard is pretty much what you'd expect it is if you've seen the trailer or can picture Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart talking about how one needs to, well, get the other "hard." In this case, "hard" is standing in for the word "tough," because euphemisms are funny, I guess.

Ferrell's character is James King, an investment banker who has everything in life. A great job, more money than he knows what to do with, a wonderful fiancé (Alison Brie; yes, Lord Business and Unikitty are engaged to be married, and no, this isn't a filthy fanfiction), and a great boss (Craig T. Nelson). But his world's about to come crashing down when he gets arrested, charged, and sentenced to ten years in prison for fraud and embezzlement. He's given 30 days to get his affairs in order, and during that time enlists the help of the man who washes his car, Darnell (Hart), to train him for prison. Darnell, he assumes, is someone who went to prison. Why? Because, he tells us, one out of every three black people goes to prison at some point. That tells you more or less what type of person we're dealing with.

As such, it's initially kind of hard to root for James. He pleads his innocence - and the film makes no bones about who the real villain is - but James starts out such an unlikable person and really never redeems himself for that. Darnell, meanwhile, just wants to make enough money to get his family into a nice neighborhood. If the film has a "good" character, it's him. It's too bad James didn't pick up some of those nicer attributes. The only growth that James undertakes involves, as the title indicates, getting "hard."

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I'd wager approximately two-thirds of Get Hard's screen time is taken up with only tangentially related "training" sketches which have James having to deal with situations that are supposed to simulate prison. His funds are frozen, we're told, yet he still manages to scrape together the capital in order to transform his mansion into a regular old San Quentin. We do prison riots, we make shivs, we make up profane and creative insults, we fight, we do stupid "mad dog" faces, and we see a whole host of other things, all done to avoid what James fears most: being raped while in prison.

If two-thirds of the 100-minute running time are dedicated to these various sketches, another 15 minutes are dedicated to making sure we, as an audience, understand exactly how much James does not want to be raped in prison. It gets uncomfortable just how much it's touched upon, and while the film wouldn't work at all if it wasn't mentioned, there's a line when something stops becoming funny because it's brought up too often, and Get Hard crosses that line.

Math was never my strong suit, but 66 + 15 looks like 81 to me. That leaves 19 minutes unaccounted for. Take out the credits, and we have maybe 13 minutes left. For what purpose does Get Hard use them? An abbreviated and frankly quite terrible action-buddy sequence in which James and Darnell try to bring down the real bad guy. It has the only real action scene of the movie, and is supposed to serve as this big climax but doesn't really amount to a whole lot. The action isn't good and the payoff is lame.

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