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Saturday, 17 June 2017

Rough Night

(MA15+) ★½


Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Kate McKinnon, Ilana Glazer, Zoë Kravitz, Paul W. Downs.

Those feels when you run out of cocaine.
After watching the trailer for this low-brow comedy, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a remake of the 1998 black comedy Very Bad Things (if you're one of the people that stills remembers that forgotten Peter Berg film starring Christian Slater, Cameron Diaz, Jon Favreau, Jeremy Piven and Daniel Stern).

Both films have exactly the same high concept - a bachelor/bachelorette party goes horribly wrong when a stripper/prostitute is accidentally killed - and both are supposedly comedies.

As well as sharing the same set-up, Rough Night shares a fundamental problem with Very Bad Things - it struggles to nail its tone, making for an awkward watch.

Despite all this, Rough Night is not a gender-swapped remake of Very Bad Things and manages to fail all on its own, which is a shame considering the great cast and characters that get wasted in a futile search for laughs.

Rough Night's bachelorette is Johansson's Jess, who re-teams with her old college buds Alice (Bell), Frankie (Glazer) and Blair (Kravitz) for one final blow-out and long overdue catch-up before Jess' impending nuptials. Also along for the ride is Pippa (McKinnon), Jess' Aussie friend from a semester spent Down Under, and whose presence gets up the nose of Jess' supposed BFF Alice.

Also getting up their nose is a decent amount of cocaine, and after a solid session dancing and drinking the night away in the nightclubs of Miami, the girls retire to their rented beach house where one of them decides it would be a good idea to call a stripper. That's when the night gets rough.

The best example of how wrong this film gets its tone can be found in the scene where the stripper is accidentally killed. Much like the stripper's head, it lands with a thunk - it's neither funny nor shocking nor a necessary mix of the two. It's just awkward (and not funny-awkward).

Rough Night struggles to get its vibe back from then on, as the women try to clean up their mess and deal with what they've done. Unfortunately, just when the movie feels like it's hitting a rhythm, an unnecessarily dumb, annoying and largely pointless subplot involving Jess' fiance Peter (Downs) picks up pace and throws things off-kilter all over again. This side-story is easily the worst part of the film, and feels like it was flown in from a whole other movie that's even worse than Rough Night.

There are a couple of okay laughs here, but the whole thing is one ginormous waste of talent. Johansson is an excellent actor but seems a bit lost as the straight player amid the funny ladies (although she does drop one excellently delivered line about "wax-shaming") and McKinnon, who was a show-stealer in Ghostbusters, is as disappointing as her erratic Australian accent.

There is one excellent dramatic scene toward the end of the second act that demonstrates how disheartening this whole film is. After being bombarded with unfunny quips and situations for over an hour, the inevitable fight between the friends happens, with some very hard truths laid-out. In this moment, Johannsson, Glazer, Kravitz and Bell all excel, and you realise these are all great actors with great characters.

But they're stuck in a film that can't get its tone right. One minute it's utterly absurd, the next it's trying to be satirical, then its steamrolling through some dark territory in between bouts of slapstick, gross-out humour and attempts at edginess. Rough Night is all over the place and the few jokes it lands properly are mildly amusing as opposed to being out-and-out hilarious.

Its tonal miscalculation is too great of a problem to overlook, although some people may get a couple of silly laughs out of this very forgettable comedy.

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