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'Horrible Bosses' review

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'Horrible Bosses' still
They say revenge is a dish best served cold and that's proven to be true in this black comedy about three downtrodden workers who agree to kill each other's bosses. Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day star as the trio with murder on their minds but not much else. They're not only too dumb to pull it off, they're too soft, so it's tough to buy the casual cynicism behind the plot. Without a properly scathing edge, director Seth Gordon leans too heavily on knockabout gags like Sudeikis cleaning his backside with his boss's toothbrush. (This smells like desperation.)

It's a shame the story is so flimsy, because the casting is solid. Jason Bateman is, as always, the picture of quiet desperation as corporate drone Nick whose life is made hell by Kevin Spacey as Mr Harken, a bully reminiscent of his studio exec in 1994 satire Swimming With Sharks. Their early scenes are promisingly funny with Harken playing mind tricks to cast Nick as a drunk and stall his promotion. Meanwhile, Kurt (Sudeikis) must bow to Colin Farrell channelling Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder, complete with sweaty comb-over and a coke habit. But Dale (Day) is arguably the biggest patsy as a dental nurse sexually harassed by Jennifer Aniston.

Naturally, it's while sitting in the pub that the guys begin to philosophise on the morality of murder. Kurt suggests that it would be wrong not to kill his boss because letting him live would mean thousands of Mexicans dying of exposure to illegally dumped toxic waste. Kurt initially seems like a man of high ideals, but another scriptwriter must have elbowed his way into the frame at this point because he then morphs into a sex-crazed degenerate, more concerned with bedding Aniston's horny doc. It's Dale who sets the ball rolling after she threatens to show his fiancée saucy snapshots of them together, taken while under sedation.

As the situation becomes urgent, the action spins off into a cul-de-sac. The premise requires three ineffectual men to endure routine victimisation, but the filmmakers then struggle to reconcile this with their murderous intentions. Much fudging ensues. In a completely unlikely scenario Jamie Foxx steps out of the shadows as an ex-con who offers to act as their killing consultant. He advises the trio to do reconnaissance on their proposed victims, which is really just an excuse to kill time and try to squeeze a few extra laughs out of Colin Farrell doing kung-fu in a silk kimono and Jennifer Aniston shattering her girl-next-door image by leaving the blinds open.

Frankly, the sight of 'The Good Girl' half-naked and suggestively slurping a hotdog is breathtaking for all the wrong reasons (and a bit sad as well). The pace deadens while the guys fail to act, instead quibbling over a workable plan. Fortunately, the gang do have chemistry and that keeps this from being entirely unwatchable. Day stands out with a few laugh-out-loud moments - getting increasingly flustered after inhaling a lungful of coke - but there isn't a strong enough drive or clear enough direction to channel this energy. Eventually, someone does get bumped off, but it happens too late before leading into a frenzied and messy last act. On the evidence of this and 2008's Four Christmases, Gordon should just pick up his P45 and go away quietly.



Watch the Horrible Bosses trailer below:

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