In just about every one of Kevin Hart's scenes in Ride Along, there's a joke that is just aching to find its way out of the diminutive, rascally comic actor. Hart is a small-scale physical comedian — of the same ilk as Jack Black — who puts nuclear-degree energy into his facial contortions, anatomical outbursts, and the delivery of every gag in general. If only he had material that was crafted with the same energy.
Unfortunately, nothing else about Ride Along seems at all "hard at work." Not the script, which pads a lifeless story with lazy comedy, and certainly not his screen partner Ice Cube, whose only stage direction seems to be "frown, and be taller than Kevin Hart." So lifeless is Ice Cube that even his machismo-obsessed straight man bit doesn't really work. Instead of the virile and intimidating "bad cop," he comes off as a disapproving middle aged dad without much to show for his own life.
But the script pairs the wily, overzealous high school security guard and video game junkie Ben (Hart) with no-nonsense lawman James (Ice Cube) on the titular ride along, with the scrappy cop-wannabe hoping to prove to the force veteran that he's good enough to marry the latter's younger sister. In earnest, he's not. Ben never puts any respectable effort into learning the tools of the trade, insisting on employing his amateur style and controlling the radio despite his proclamations that he wants, and deserves, James' trust. And James is no saint either — he's irresponsible on crime scenes, violent with perps, and disgruntled to the point of being unable to work with anybody else on the force. These are not good police officers... of course, you'll say, this is a comedy. But where are the laughs, then?
They're not absent entirely, you just have to look for them. In a movie so focused with big, broad humor, it's the smaller comedy that actually lands best. Hart's background mutterings and fumblings, his emoticon-laden texts to girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter, whose only stage direction seems to be "smile, and never wear a full outfit of clothing"), and a bizarre repetition of the word "weird" from supporting player John Leguizamo. All good for unexpected chuckles, while jokes like Hart facing off with a pre-teen or being blown backwards into a brick wall after firing a large gun are all lazy, familiar, and flat.
Structurally, the script is a mess. Ride Along spends far too much time on set up — we get it, Hart and his soon-to-be-brother-in-law Ice Cube don't get along — and far too much time on wrap-up — there's a gigantic, dramatic warehouse shootout that, in any other movie, would be the climax, but there's plenty more to go after that — without any cohesive middle to make the movie feel like... a movie.
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Hart, who leaps at every comic opportunity like a kangaroo (wallaby would be more appropriate), is suited just right for a buddy cop comedy, but he needs something fresh with which to work — a real character, an interesting story, actually funny jokes. Even just one of these would be fine!
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There's just something inherently great about old people with guns. Normally I try to stay away from our societal elders lest they suck me into a conversation attempting to regale me with their dreaded wisdom and accrued-over-a-lifetime experience. But if you give an old person a gun, something magical happens: I start to pay attention. Granted, anyone with a gun is going to be worth paying attention to, but an old person with a gun is just a treasure. It's almost priceless when they turn out to be badasses that kick the crap out of a bunch of young whippersnappers.
Such a simple fact is really the only reason RED exists as a movie: It was an excuse to combine a handful of older celebrities with a truckload of firepower. Brilliant. (It doesn't hurt that that movie actually turned out to be pretty rad, a sort of "Why weren't all of the summer action movies this fun?" kind of flick.)
So in honor of RED's Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich, here is a list of their peers -- and in several cases, elders -- who have proven that they know just about as much about the AARP as they do the NRA.
[Note: For the purposes of this list, only people who are still alive and could thus actually be members of the AARP have been included.]
Kris Kristofferson, born 1936
Kris Kristofferson has shown throughout his career that he can beat the hell out of a lot of people regardless of age (hell, sometimes he doesn't even limit is geriatric rage to humans, as evidenced by him leading the resistance in Planet of the Apes), but it's his role as Whistler in the Blade series that fits in nicely with the RED mantra. The man oozes badass in it by making his own custom guns and dealing out death to vampires left and right without a single shred of remorse. And this was back when vampires did way more than just sparkle and fight werewolves; I can't even imagine how glorious it would be to see Kristofferson's Whistler wander into the woods of Forks, Washington, or to stop off at a bar in Bon Temps, Louisiana, and wait for someone to order a Tru Blood.
Michael Gross, born 1947
As far as I'm concerned, Burt Gummer is a national hero who doesn't get the thanks he deserves. He was just some quiet, reserved, old right-winger who happened to be enjoying his retirement in the town of Perfection, Nevada, when a handful of Graboids decided to start coming up out of the ground and eating his friends. His exploits as a gunsmith, bomb maker and destroyer of all things Pre-Cambrian have been chronicled no less than three times in the documentary film series Tremors. (Yes, I realize that Tremors is not a documentary and that Burt Gummer is really actor Michael Gross; just please let me have this one.)
Clint Eastwood, born 1930 Here's another actor with a fistful of roles that could have landed him on this list, but for the sake of brevity we'll just focus on Clint Eastwood as Bill Munny in Unforgiven. In it he plays a retired gunslinger who is legendary not for his heroic acts but for being a cold-blooded mercenary. Like all old-timers, he just wants to live out his life on his small ranch, but he ends up getting dragged back in for one last assignment. And then what happens? A lot of people get shot in the heart. Judi Dench, born 1934 Okay, so Judi Dench's M in the James Bond series isn't exactly known for popping caps in a bunch of other spies, but don't let that lull you into thinking she's not dangerous. Hers is one of the few roles of its kind considering M actually gets meaner the older she gets. She may not always be on the frontlines, but she's still making decisions that result in the deaths of countless terrorists, which is alright in my book. Sam Elliott, born 1944 Sam Elliott, a man with one of the most distinctive voices in Hollywood, hasn't taken on a ton of action roles in his later years, but even when he is playing a Southern gentlemen, he does it with a kind of extreme confidence you only see from people who know how to throw down. There is one particular role, however, in which Elliott breaks from his softer side and shows why exactly he is such a badass: Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley in We Were Soldiers. In it he plays a Vietnam soldier whose idea of a pep talk is to say, "Col. Custer was a pussy." Old people don't get much more hardcore than that. Wilford Brimley, born 1934 Wilford Brimley is a killing machine. Yes, he's now the comforting old codger that sells your grandparents life insurance and fiber supplements on TV, but back in the day he was ruthless. You couldn't last a few days at a research station in the Arctic with a Thing running around without having Brimley lose his grip on reality, barricade himself in a science lab and start shooting at his friends. That's a special kind of crazy, and I love him for it. Mel Gibson, born 1956 Edge of Darkness is one of the most ass-kicking movies of the year, which is astounding considering this year also included a movie called Kick-Ass. It's all a testament to how intimidating Mel Gibson is when he's in full-on gruff mode. When most old people get like this, they're simply unpleasant to be around because of all the complaining. When Mel Gibson gets pissed off, though, he shoots people and then pours radiation down their throats. Liam Neeson, born 1952 I love Taken more than I love oxygen, and I need that stuff to live. That is predominantly due to how on-point Liam Neeson is when it comes to, well, dominating people. The man is built like an oak tree and looks perfectly at home whether he's traumatizing someone's trachea or shooting them in the back. He will do anything to get what he wants, including putting a round in the shoulder of an innocent wife just to make a point. Stephen Lang, born 1952 Say what you will about Avatar and how paper-thin the characters and story structure are, but there's no denying that Stephen Lang is great as Col. Quaritch. The man struts around an entire alien planet like he owns the place -- he doesn't even use a gas mask half the time because he can't be bothered by such trivial things as a poisonous atmosphere. He carries himself with a totally convincing ex-military air. And, best yet, he looks like he could break your spine just by shaking your hand. Estelle Getty, born 1923 Okay, I know I'm breaking my own rules by ending the list with a person who is sadly no longer with us, but I just have to give Estelle Getty a spot on here. She may not be as intimidating as some of her cohorts on this list. She may look tiny and frail. She may even be dead. None of that matters, though, because she starred in Stop or My Mom Will Shoot. That's the only title on this list that not only alludes to a character's edge but is an actual threat, to boot.