Kevin Hart takes to the silver screen for another comedy – this time as Darnell Lewis, a car wash owner with aspirations to move out of the ghetto. Unlike his last film, “The Wedding Ringer” (2015), which brought real laughs and true heart to the screen, “Get Hard” is a solid disappointment. While quite humorous throughout, it fails to capitalize on opportunities for quality cinema.
“Get Hard” covers the month leading up to James King’s (Will Ferrell) incarceration for embezzlement. After several failed attempts to avoid prison, he seeks out the help of Lewis to teach him how to survive the dangers of San Quentin prison.
Why would King recruit a man like Lewis, an upstanding citizen with no criminal record? Statistical analysis, says King. Since one-third of black men will end up incarcerated at some point in their lives, he infers that Lewis is an ex-con. So starts the onslaught of racist, sexist and homophobic jokes that fuel the film.
Most of the film focuses on gang culture and prison life, including the homosexual implications characters assume go with it. I would like to say that these jokes were used to make comments about the poor state of the American prison system or the racial stereotypes still present in society. But it does just the opposite. Lewis is constantly assumed to have gone to prison, despite being a responsible business owner.
In one scene, he talks about having to take photos of wealthy stockbroker’s odometers before washing them to avoid being accused of joy-riding. These jokes hint at the very real issue in society today that black Americans are often mischaracterized as thugs and criminals. Unfortunately, instead of convicting viewers to be less judgmental, it reinforces the stereotypes present. Lewis has no qualms about living up to all King’s assumptions in order to earn a big payday.
Worse than the racist jokes are the implications of prison life, which assumes sexual assault on a daily basis. At least Lewis’s wife Rita (Edwina Findley) rejected the idea that all black people are criminals, though this was constantly undermined by the actions of every other character. The film’s assumptions about prison, however, were never questioned. It was an accepted fact that if King went to prison, he would be assaulted on a daily basis.
What is so disturbing about this is the fact that film has a profound influence on society. Simply look at the current zeitgeist and you will see how much film changes what is considered popular and what is taboo. “Get Hard” had a very real opportunity to affect the stereotypes surrounding prison culture. Even more, it had the opportunity to bring awareness to actual problems in the prison system. But it did neither. Film is responsible for the content that it presents to society and “Get Hard” did not take this responsibility seriously.
The one area where the film did make some actual social commentary was regarding the greed that is present on the Wall Street trading floor. Two gang members, when presented with the idea of stock trading, comment that it is similar to theft. They relate to the ideas King teaches them about investing. For a moment, I thought the film was finally going to comment on a real issue. But this one shining moment was quickly glossed over and overshadowed by the offensive humor used in the film.
By the end of the film, had I enjoyed a few great laughs? Absolutely. The film was genuinely funny at times, even when it wasn’t resorting to racism and homophobia. But those laughs in no way made up for the mess of constant offensive material. “Get Hard” is an example of a film that didn’t put effort into doing something great with the content it dealt with.
Matt Whitney is a senior film production major. This review reflects the opinion of the writer only.