Is there a film any more appropriate for our times than Horrible Bosses? As a comedy, the film is really a portrait of three men overwhelmingly disillusioned by how their lives have turned out, and the message arrives with the notion that it doesn’t matter how hard you’ve worked, in the end you’ll have to kill your boss to get ahead. The film is really an old style farce that works well with those fairly depressing themes, and the great cast constantly bring it back from the brink of unbelievability.
We start with the sentiment, “The key to success is taking shit”, spoken by Jason Bateman’s character Nick, setting the slightly defeatist tone of everything that follows. Nick’s boss (Kevin Spacey) is teasing him about a promotion he’s worked at for years, Kurt’s (Jason Sudeikis) beloved mentor (Donald Sutherland) has left his cokehead son (Colin Farrell) in charge of the company following his death, and Dale (Charlie Day) is enduring daily sexual harassment from Julia (Jennifer Aniston), the only woman who’ll employ him after he made the list of registered sex offenders.
It’s this last part that really sums up the guys’ predicament, as the audience is never allowed to forget the desperate times surrounding them. In danger of alienating a good portion of the cinema-going public with their good jobs and success stories, we’re made aware that, however qualified and talented these three friends are, if they quit their jobs they may end up just like Kenny (PJ Byrne), selling sexual favours in the bar they frequent just to get by.
Kurt isn’t really on the sex offender’s list for a good reason, anyway; that would make him pretty hard to love. Having urinated in an empty playground at night, he’d made the register by accident, but the fact that Horrible Bosses dares to include a running gag about paedophilia just shows how brave the film really is. Crude humour like the stuff surrounding the Dale/Julia story thread is nothing new for comedies such as this, but everything is taken up a notch to the uncomfortable zone, and you may leave the film with that same feeling.
But the film is about ordinary workers driven to murder by their employers, so it makes sense that things had to be pushed past the boundaries of ordinary behaviour. Their bosses really are terrible people and, by the time Nick, Kurt and Dale are discussing strategy in their usual bar, we believe in their justifications, and wonder if we’d do the same. It’s really a film about three men faced with losing everything they’ve worked for, and what they’d be prepared to do in order to hold on to it.
It’s the bosses who get to have the most fun, anyway, with Kevin Spacey apparently relishing the role of an evil corporate head and stealing every scene he‘s in. Colin Farrell takes on a different method, echoing Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder and dressing down for the part. It’s also a very different role for Jennifer Aniston, who leaves all memory of Rachel behind with a seductive performance more fitting an adult film than light-hearted comedy.
The best part of the film is undoubtedly when the group is trying to figure out how to carry out their murderous plan. All involved are so incompetent that it provides some great comedic moments, and the funniest part of the movie. This is partly due to the great addition of Jamie Foxx’s Motherf****r Jones, the ‘hit-man’ the guys find in a seedy part of town. After this part of the movie, things start to unravel and the film loses some of its natural humour, and you start to wish you could go back to the fantasy element apparent earlier.
The camaraderie and charisma shared between the cast, especially Bateman, Sudeikis and Day, is what ultimately makes the film stand out and, in a genre where the search for a funny gag is often more important than character development, it’s rare for a cast to seem so real. Some of the film’s best scenes are those that simply feature the three leads talking or hanging out, their chemistry together instantly convincing us of their friendship.
Horrible Bosses can be an unpleasant watch, but these are unpleasant times, and the film reflects that in a comedy form very nicely. With a lesser cast, it may have gone the way of Seth Rogen’s Observe And Report but, as it turns out, the natural performances and farcical comedy keep it fun.
The extras are pretty standard to a comedy such as this, but there are some nice little insights into the making of the film in both How To Survive A Horrible Boss and Being Mean Is So Much Fun, focusing on either the main cast or the actors portraying the bosses.
As the strongest element of the film, it’s nice to hear the actors’ opinions on their characters and performances, and it’s fun to see big stars like Spacey and Farrell contemplating stepping out from their respective comfort zones.
These nuggets of interest are brief, however, and everything feels a little rushed. It seems like the conception of this idea might have been a very interesting process, but everything here is resolutely focused on how fun making the film turned out to be. My Least Favourite Career and The Making Of The Horrible Bosses Soundtrack are both pleasant watches as well, with the latter the most in-depth of the extras. All in all, this is a pretty standard collection for an above-average comedy.
You can rent or buy Horrible Bosses at Blockbuster.co.uk.