There are only two types of people in this world: people who can successfully execute a plan and those who cannot. The three discontent workers in “Horrible Bosses,” who are fed up with their equally despicable employers, are the very archetypes of the second category. No matter what these bumbling fools try to accomplish, it always ends up blowing right back in their face (quite literally, in the case of cocaine). When they search for a hitman on Craigslist, they instead get someone with a completely different set of special skills. When they DO find a legitimate hitman, he forces them to take care of the dirty work on their own. There is even a moment where one of the guys actually SAVES the life of somebody they are aiming to KILL.
And the sheer inanity of these three main characters is really what made me appreciate the film. For the level of clueless employed by them, there is a kind of science and cleverness when these guys get into multiple situations that are way over their heads. It is rare for an R-rated comedy to be concerned with its plot, but this delivers an interesting premise executed greatly with a steady equilibrium of slapstick and subversion. It even has surprising twists and turns, something that even thrillers cannot pull off too often these days. “Horrible Bosses” is the kind of smart, biting, cynical, expertly dirty comedy that I would never expect from the guy who brought the world “Four Christmases.”
First, we have the hard-working office executive named Nick, who is played by Jason Bateman, the current go-to guy for straight-faced working stiffs in comedy. This guy has spent the last eight years of his life trusting the principle that if he takes sh** from those more powerful than himself, he will be able to climb up the corporate ladder. But his boss, the wickedly manipulative Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), just loves to throw sh** in his general direction. He seems to feed off the agony and torment that he creates in others without showing a solitary shred of sympathy. He simply loves to watch them squirm. But when Harken gives himself the promotion that Nick has been slaving for, that is when things get personal. That, and Nick still holds a grudge on Harken for not allowing him to leave work and say goodbye to his now deceased grandmother.
Then we have the feeble but good-natured Dale (Charlie Day). This young dental assistant is soon going to be married to a beautiful girl and will finally be living his lifelong dream. However, he is the assistant to one Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), a sex-crazed individual who relentlessly submits the gutless Dale to sexual harassment through lewd remarks and improper conduct and use of incriminating evidence that could ruin his relationship. As torturous as this job is to Dale, the other guys don’t regard his humiliating position as much of a curse.
Finally we meet Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), the gleeful and charming accountant whose contentment with his job is cut short when his old and wise boss Mr. Pellitt (Donald Sutherland) dies of a heart attack and the company gets handed down to his drug addicted tool of a son Bobby (Colin Farrell). Right off the bat, Bobby destroys the legacy his father shaped for the company and fills his office corner to corner with cocaine and scantily-clad women.
These three share their tales of anguish and humiliation at their jobs over a couple of drinks every few nights until one of them wonders aloud, “wouldn’t the world be better if our bosses weren’t alive?” Now any person who has their head on straight would consider finding new jobs before taking the extreme measures of triple homicide, but these guys receive a harrowing revelation when they get a glimpse at the fate of their unemployed buddy Kenny at the bar.
Following through with their plans to systematically murder their bosses, they go to the “wrong side” of town and hire a hitman (Jamie Foxx) who agrees to be their personal murder consultant. Jamie Foxx’s appearance brings about thoughts of a tattooed version of Samuel L. Jackson’s character in “Snakes On A Plane.” He is even fascinated with the same twelve-letter word to the point that it is part of his name. He tells them to gather information about their bosses’ personal lives so that they can concoct fatal situations meant to look like accidents, sort of like in “The Mechanic.” This spurs several reconnaissance missions to the targets’ houses so that these three can further demonstrate their ineptitude in life-or-death scenarios.
Though this film takes the occasional dive into dark humor in its final act, I was laughing consistently throughout thanks to a tremendously talented cast and a terrifically riotous script. I am always a huge fan of Kevin Spacey and he does an excellent job at making his character thoroughly loathsome with only the slightest hints of derision in his voice. Colin Farrell also packs a politically incorrect punch as an arrogant cokehead and Jennifer Aniston’s performance reminds the audience that she can be good, despite what ten years since “The Good Girl” have to say about her career. And for its efforts, “Horrible Bosses” ends up being one of the best worker revenge comedies since Mike Judge’s “Office Space” in 1999. It is certainly a LOT more ruthless and a LOT raunchier.
In fact, “Horrible Bosses” could have earned itself an extra half-star rating (and it almost did) had it not been for Charlie Day’s tireless over acting. There is one scene in which Dale accidentally gets some cocaine in his system and starts bouncing off the wall with high energy. Okay, it works for that one scene alone, but why does he continue with this charade a few days after the incident. After some time, his squeaky-voiced hyperactivity started to rub me the wrong way.