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A Real Pistol

My enthusiastic review of Observe and Report was written shortly before the spate of horrific shootings last week, and all at once it’s an unpropitious time to open a movie teeming with gonzo gun humor. But the film is, if anything, even more relevant — and greater than the sum of its sick jokes. As Taxi Driver was a madhouse travesty of Death Wish with a dash of Dostoevsky (the Underground Man was alive and unwell and living in New York in the seventies, with access to automatic weapons), so Observe and Report is a travesty of Taxi Driver. A loner given to “morbid self-attention” wanders among the drug-addicted masses (now they’re mallrats), obsesses over a blonde who’s out of his league, and finally cracks up, hurling himself into the role of vigilante avenger. Let's all laugh at this savior-in-his-own-mind, uneasy but confident in the knowledge that — this being a comedy — no one will die. And, indeed, it all winds up happily, with heroism, bloody retribution, catharsis, and renewed potency. The movie is a carnival ride through our culture’s love affair with gun violence. You can whoop it up and still feel a little like puking.

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