Get Hard (3 stars)

Get Hard

Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart pair up for a rollercoaster of a race relations comedy

Race relations are placed under a comic spotlight, but Blazing Saddles this ain't. When innocent hedge fund exec James King (Will Ferrell) finds out that he is being sent to prison for fraud, he assumes car-wash owner Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart) can teach him to survive San Quentin simply because Darnell is black. Although he's insulted, Darnell needs $30,000 to move his family to a better neighbourhood, so agrees, despite being so law-abiding he’s never even had a parking ticket.

Get Hard is classier than your average commercial American comedy but it's still pretty crude; it's the directorial debut of Tropic Thunder screenwriter Etan Cohen, who co-writes, and his trademark rollercoaster comedic style is all over it. Get Hard is relentless, with jokes coming thick and fast like the patter of a cheap-suit salesman and, be warned, there's no shortage of material on prison rape. However, it also riffs on inequality, respect and belonging and while it may make fun of James' naïveté, it never insults its characters’ intelligence. When James dresses up as Lil Wayne, he tells Darnell, 'I’m not trying to appropriate your culture.' 'That’s great,' responds Darnell. 'I’ll tell the others.'

In this occasionally brilliant, if somewhat uneven, showcase of speedy plotting and even speedier improvisation, Hart and Ferrell’s chemistry is such that it seems certain to pair them up in the future. Hart’s seamless skill means he can stay steady, or morph when needed (in a prison simulation he plays four different inmates). Ferrell keeps to his character’s binary nature – he's basically a schmo with a gift for the stock market. Support comes courtesy of Alison Brie as James' shallow fiancée, Craig T Nelson as his teflon boss / future father-in-law, while Edwina Findley Dickerson plays Darnell’s no-nonsense wife. Rapper TI shows star quality as Russell the gang-banger, but watch out for TJ Jagodowski as Chris, the perky, persistent gay man, who channels Airplane!'s Johnny. There are both laughs and groans here, but you won’t leave feeling stupid.

General release from Fri 27 Mar.

Get Hard

  • 3 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 1h 40min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Etan Cohen
  • Cast: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Alison Brie
  • UK release: 27 March 2015

Hedge fund exec James (Ferrell) is to be sent to prison for fraud, so he persuades law-abiding car wash owner Darnell (Hart) to teach him how to survive in prison, on the grounds that Darnell is black. If you can stand lots of jokes about prison rape, it's occasionally brilliant, if somewhat uneven.