Ethan Cohen’s film perpetuates gay panic, racism and off-colour jokes… with good intent
An alleged match made in comedy heaven, Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart portray some very offensive unconventional characters. A warning to all viewers: if you do not care to see a flash image of male genitals, this film may not be for you.
Ethan Cohen’s directorial debut Get Hard plays with fire when it comes to its representation of race, homophobia and socioeconomic class in America. Although the screenwriter has been praised for his work on Tropic Thunder and Idiocracy, he has received a lot of negative press for this particularly racy R-rated comedy.
“I think the litmus test of doing an edgy movie is to be able to take it just to the edge where people start to get offended. That’s what makes it, I think, effective as a satire,” Cohen told BuzzFeed.
Ferrell plays James King, a genius hedge fund manager who wakes up to do naked yoga sessions in front of his Latino house workers with a young and beautiful fiancée (Alison Brie) by his side in their Bel Air mansion. After being convicted for financial fraud and sentenced to 10 years in a maximum-security prison, King offers $30,000 to his car washer, Darnell Lewis (Hart), to help him “get hard” 30 days prior to beginning his prison life. Apparently the only black man King knows, Lewis is assumed to be an ex-convict because of his race. In reality, Lewis is a family man with not so much as a parking ticket. Nevertheless, Lewis plays this stereotypically constructed role to earn some needed cash.
This leads to a series of racist and homophobic jokes, combined with scenes of King picking fights with hefty strangers in the park, a prison riot re-enactment in his mansion and impersonations of the stereotypical Latino, black and gay men that King might encounter in prison. As Lewis mimics anal rape by smacking his hands together, it becomes clear that this film bases the majority of its jokes on the idea of gay panic. Ferrell breaks down in tears before he is able to perform fellatio on a stranger in a bathroom stall of a gay bar, as Lewis orders him to do because, “when life puts a d—k in your mouth, you make d—k-ade.”
Near the end of the film, the plot becomes a question of “who done it,” as it is evident that Ferrell’s character could not have embezzled money. Despite his cultural ignorance, he is, overall, good-hearted.
On a positive note, however, the film highlights the contrast between middle and upper class America. While King performs Brazilian martial arts, Lewis teaches him how to give a guy a simple punch to the face. Cohen pokes fun at this huge gap between American social classes: when King and Lewis visit Darnell’s gangster cousin Russell (T.I.), one of his fellow gang members makes a comment on how gangsterism isn’t so bad but, “Wall Street—that’s the real crime.”
Cohen told BuzzFeed that although the film may be offensive, his intention is to raise awareness about these issues in America by satirizing them. The film was allegedly not produced with the sole purpose of getting a few a laughs out of the audience.
Get Hard opens in theatres this Friday.