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Earning the Badge of Dishonor

Observe and Report (2009)

Peter Sorel/Warner Bros. Pictures

“Observe and Report” could easily have been Binghamton killer, the movie, and it’s really not a stretch. The protagonist of this alleged dark comedy exhibits the same personality traits and psychological profile as Jiverly Wong, who killed 13 people and himself on April 3. A loner constantly enduring taunts for his mental illness, Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen) has developed an obsession with firearms and a vigilante complex. Although the similarities end there, one can’t help but think that laughing at a dangerously deranged person in the wake of Wong’s mass murder could be in very poor taste.

Ronnie suffers from delusions of grandeur, acting like a law enforcement officer when he is merely a security guard at a shopping mall. When a flasher begins routinely exposing himself to random customers in the parking lot, Ronnie determines to apprehend him before the authorities do. See, Ronnie is a bit territorial and doesn’t want Det. Harrison (Ray Liotta) snooping around the mall and effectively taking over the case. But deep down Ronnie aspires to become a cop, and he wants to prove himself worthy after failing the psychological assessment required for admission to the police academy.

“Observe and Report” certainly has its fair share of dark humor, but most of it is more cringe-worthy than funny-ha-ha. Ronnie is both frighteningly ignorant and pitifully pathetic. The film becomes almost nauseating, though, after serving up a steady diet of violence, drug use, racism and date rape. It’s inevitable that Ronnie will finally snap when his reality becomes overwhelming. This is downright scary in the context of all the recent killing sprees around the country, but some out there might nevertheless find it hilarious. As a moviegoer was exiting the theater, he told his companion “I thought you’d have to appreciate dark humor. That’s not true, because I laughed.” Good for you, man.


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