Film Review – Horrible Bosses

There is a universal relatability at the core of Horrible Bosses. No matter what kind of person you are or how well you’ve been brought up, there is a sentence that has crossed all of our minds at one point or another: “I’d like to kill that guy.” Now, it was probably thought in the heat of the moment after some asshole cut you off on the freeway. But the idea was there, if only for a split second. However, there are very few of us who would actually go through with such an idea. This fact is what makes Horrible Bosses a film that many people will be able to relate to, but one that doesn’t totally sell its convictions. The filmmakers are hoping that audiences will think “I hate my boss. Life would be so much easier if he was dead,” and that will be enough for them. Unfortunately they were so sure of their premise that they forgot to actually make it a convincing plot development that three ordinary guys would turn into murderers after little more than one drunken conversation.

The film begins with narration from each of our main characters. Nick (Jason Bateman, Juno) tells the story of how he came to be a desk jockey for the last eight years thanks to his asshole of a boss, Dave (Kevin Spacey, American Beauty). Constantly forced to stay late and take part in humiliating mind games, Nick has only stuck around this long because of a big promotion Dave has been dangling in front of his face. Nick’s friend Dale (Charlie Day, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) talks about his life as a dental assistant who has to deal with constant harassment by his sexually aggressive boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston, The Good Girl). Unlike his two friends, Kurt (Jason Sudeikis, Hall Pass) works at a job he loves. He tell us how much he enjoys being the right hand man to Jack (Donald Sutherland, National Lampoon’s Animal House), a great boss at a chemical company. Unfortunately, he has to deal with Jack’s son Bobby (Colin Farrell, In Bruges), a sleazy cokehead just waiting for his chance to take over.

After this effective sequence, the plot gets rolling. The promotion Nick was working so hard the past months for? Dave decides to take the position on himself, thus getting a bigger office and paycheck. The happiness Dale feels at his recent engagement? Taken away when Julia finds out and says she’ll blackmail him if he doesn’t have sex with her before the wedding. Kurt’s dream job? Turns into a nightmare when Jack dies and Bobby takes over. His first order of business: have Kurt fire either the fat girl or the guy in the wheelchair, because they make him sad. These events all coincide with one another, leading to a depressed night at the bar for our three friends. Over drinks they discuss how much better life would be if their respective bosses were out of the picture.

This aspect of the plot is handled well, with the boys deciding that they aren’t murderers, but might have the capacity to hire someone else to take care of their bosses. A drive into the bad part of town introduces them to the funniest character in the film, Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx, Ray). They tell their story to Motherfucker and hope that he’ll do their dirty work. Unfortunately, he’s on probation and wants to keep his hands clean. Motherfucker decides that it’ll be best for everyone involved if he just acts as their murder consultant and gives them tips on committing the crimes. Here is where the film loses its sense of reality. The bosses have all been over the top creations, but our three leads have acted like normal people. Once they realize that they have to kill their bosses themselves, they accept it a bit too quickly. Within one scene they are scheming and surveying. These scenes are at times very funny, but since the film doesn’t sell their decision, it brings the plot further from the reality of the first act and more into the realm of a cartoon.


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John is the co-host of The Macguffin Podcast, lover of 80s teen and horror films, and an independent filmmaker.

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