Some men are born great, some men have greatness thrust upon them. Nick, Kurt, and Dale (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day), the three schlubs at the center of HORRIBLE BOSSES fall in the latter category. Sort of. As the heroes of a subversively prescient black comedy, they are the quintessential little guys rendered powerless by a bad economy. Pushed to the edge of reason and then tipped over the edge by bosses that are as psychopathic as they are untouchable and inescapable, they are driven to the unthinkable, which is also, paradoxically, one of the unsung American Dreams, they decide that for the good of their emotional and financial health, not to mention the good of the planet in general, their bosses must die.
These are no ordinary, ineffectual, unpleasant superiors. Nickís (Kevin Spacey) is a sarcastic sadist with a penchant for toying with and then exterminating dreams. Kurtís (Colin Ferrill screamingly funny in bald wig and bad clothes) is a clueless coke-fiend willing to wipe out populations with cheap chemical disposal and gut the company that Kurt adores. Daleís (Jennifer Anniston) is an aggressively libidinous dentist with no boundaries and no respect for Dale wanting to remain faithful to his fiancee. One night, over drinks and the sad realization that finding other jobs is well night impossible, they come up with the idea of killing them. The more they talk, the more reasonable the idea becomes, and without quite agreeing to move forward, they are shopping for a hit man and doing reconnaissance work for the best way of disposing of their problems.
Naturally three basically decent middle-class guys from Riverside are clueless about this most dangerous game, and their detours through personal ads, seedy bars, and appeals to reason donít so much help as make for a deadpan comedy that is vicious, but no more vicious than their prey. There is a nice underlying tension throughout, though, that keeps the idea of snuffing out a life as something that is never less than a very drastic measure. Good guys attempting to sink to that level, but forever being buoyed up by their essential decentness makes for the right balance of horror and wit, with the occasional dip into drugs, infidelity, and mean-spiritedness all the more piquant for their inability to deal with them. As always Bateman, a superb master of understatement, splutters along with the determination of being cornered and yet one syllogism away from a total mental collapse. The inner struggle is subtly externalized with a flutter in the voice, a twitch of an eyebrow, and a barely perceptible intake of breath to fuel the next move that his character hasnít quite worked out yet. He is the straight-man to the madness that his co-stars embrace with appropriately wild abandon.
HORRIBLE BOSSES is delightfully deranged wish-fulfillment spiked throughout with humor that is as philosophically testing as it is refreshingly original. The catharsis it might also provide should by not means be overlooked, either.