This managerial misdemeanour comedy is laugh out loud in places but awkwardly crude in others.
What's the worst thing your boss has ever done? Forced you to neck a quart of scotch at eight am only to accuse you of having a drinking problem later that morning? How about ordered you to cull your overweight and disabled colleagues? Ever blackmailed you with incriminating photos taken while you were heavily sedated?
Chances are you've just mentally checked off none of the above, but these illicit episodes are all part of the daily grind for the long-suffering trio at the heart of Seth Gordon's managerial misdemeanour comedy.
"The key to success is taking shit", professes Nick (Jason Bateman), a spineless suit who's put through the mincer every clocked-in second by demon honcho Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey somewhere between Glengarry Glen Ross and Swimming with Sharks, and one step further up the corporate foodchain). His buddies Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) don't have it much better – harassed by a nympho mentalist (Jennifer Aniston) and a combover-crowned douchebag (Colin Farrell) respectively.
Their bosses aren't just horrible, they're downright sadistic. So, plied with booze and armed with half an idea and a few scattershot tips from a resident bad dude (Jamie Foxx rediscovering his funny bone as the unambiguously monikered Motherfucker Jones), the tormented pals hatch a plan to rub out their vindictive employers.
Revenge might be a dish best served cold, but our have-a-go assassins quickly find themselves neck deep in hot water. Dale and Nick's conviction is clouded by their innate moral fibre, while the only thing Kurt is good for is 'murdering ass' (Sudeikis isn't a believable ladies' man, but by default he's the most believable of the three). Luckily for them, however, fate is on hand to help.
Fans of Gordon's 2007 doc King of Kong will lap up a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo from Steve Wiebe, but there are few other directorial flourishes to differentiate Horrible Bosses from the mainstream LOL pack. A running gag about Dale's sex offender status and a reconnaissance mission gone wrong offer respite from the cheapeningly crude banter that marks this as yet another unoriginal and out-of-touch Hollywood comedy prizing its R cert status over substance.
There are actual, tangible jokes here, and the cast play to their strengths well, but too many wild script misfires – casual racism aimed at a foreign-sounding in-car operator being the most flagrant – paint Dale, Kurt and Nick as nasty dunderheads rather than crusaders for the little man as assumedly intended. Ultimately, they're no better than the bullies they conspire to kill. Just goofier and a shade more cowardly.
Strong cast. So a lurid marketing campaign asserts...
Laugh out loud in places, awkwardly crude in others.
Don't stick to your day job.