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The year may be just a few months old, but it's safe to assume that no film released in 2009 will divide moviegoers quite like "Observe and Report." It's a love-it-or-hate-it movie that most people will probably hate, but the remaining few will love it for being such a dark, daring and very funny R-rated comedy that wears its penchant for bad taste like a badge of honor.
And wearing that badge very proudly is Seth Rogen, front and center as Ronnie Barnhardt — the head of security at the Forest Ridge Mall. But moviegoers expecting another slapstick comedy along the lines of "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" or another lovable stoner from Rogen (like the ones he played in "Knocked Up" and "Pineapple Express") are in for a rude — and crude — awakening.
That's because Rogen's mall cop has more in common with Travis Bickle's anti-hero from "Taxi Driver." As his character takes on shoplifters, skateboarders and a notoriously elusive flasher, he becomes more unhinged and loses his grip on reality while lusting after the trashy makeup clerk (the always-game Anna Faris) who couldn't care less about him.
He also suffers from delusions of grandeur, since he truly believes that he's cut out for the Conway Police Department. Standing in his way there is Detective Harrison (a cynical Ray Liotta), who seems equally threatened and amused by Ronnie's unorthodox approach. Ronnie's best chance for redemption lies not only with catching the flasher, but doing so before the real cops do.
If moviegoers had a hard time embracing Jim Carrey's dark side in 1996's "The Cable Guy," then wait 'til they get a load of Seth Rogen playing such an unlikable character in "Observe and Report." But once they get past the initial shock, they should admire Rogen for taking a chance with such a controversial role while at the peak of his career.
And Rogen pulls it off, thanks to an edgy performance that still manages to be somewhat sympathetic. It would have been easy to dismiss Ronnie for not having any redeeming qualities, but after being raised by an alcoholic mother (Celia Weston) who's even more pathetic than he is, it's hard to find fault with a person who's so driven to do the right thing (regardless of how he does it).
Think of "Observe and Report" as the "Bad Santa" of mall cop movies. It isn't for everybody — what movie that features full frontal male nudity and date rape would be? But thanks to Rogen's impressive performance and stylish direction from writer-director Jody Hill ("The Foot Fist Way"), it's bound to be embraced as a cult classic that its admirers will report to again and again.
Verdict: SEE IT!