A look at Observe & Report ‘con Pena’

What would happen if you combine the attitude of “Dirty” Harry Callahan, the personality of Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver and a hint of Paul Blart: Mall Cop?
You get the main character of the latest raunchy dark comedy, Observe and Report.
Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen) is the head of security at the Forest Ridge Mall, where he combats with rowdy skateboarders and unruly customers every day. He take his job seriously and frowns at the idea that the mall’s security staff are not allowed to carry firearms.
When a menacing flasher strikes fear into the hearts of all mall shoppers and Brandi (Anna Faris), a woman that Ronnie has fallen for, Ronnie chases his dreams of becoming a police officer. Meanwhile, Ronnie is also waging a turf war on local police, headed by Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta) to see who handles crimes committed at the Forest Ridge Mall.
The Beacon had the chance to talk with actor Michael Pena (Crash, World Trade Center) who plays Ronnie’s second-in-command, Dennis, at the Lowes Hotel in South Beach.
Pena auditioned for the movie because he was a fan of Observe and Report‘s director Jody Hill’s last film, Foot Fist Way, a dark comedy about an inept karate instructor (Danny McBride) struggling with marital troubles and an unhealthy obsession with a fellow karate fighter.
“I thought that it was an awesome movie and I hoped that I would do a movie with this guy,” Pena said.
When it came to working with Hill, it was different than when Pena worked with Paul Haggis on Crash and Oliver Stone on World Trade Center.
“Haggis is such a stickler for words as well as Stone,” Pena said. “But with Jody Hill, it is different because he comes up with lines every freaking time.”
When it came to working with Seth Rogen, Pena said that it was cool because Rogen is an improvisation genius.
“He has been doing stand-up comedy and writing jokes since the age of 13,” said Pena. “It was pretty intimidating at first, then I kind of got settled down and it was cool.”
In the film, Pena’s vision of the character involved aviator glasses, a perm and an accent that is reminiscent of a pimp.
Pena was inspired by the Hughes Brothers’ 1999 documentary, American Pimp, which details the lives of African-American street pimps. He watched one of the subjects being interviewed and was able to pick on that person’s speech pattern for his character.
Pena also prepared for his role by practicing in his car and listening to a lot of rap music.
“Bad rapping enabled to clearly realize the character,” Pena said.
When it comes to what Pena wants moviegoers to take away from Observe and Report, he just hopes that they laugh and that they are entertained.
“I think it is cool and I hope that the movie sticks with them for a while,” Pena said.
The next film Pena will be working on is My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done.
The film will be directed by German filmmaker Werner Zerhog (Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World) and features an all-star cast that includes Oscar nominees Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man) and Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road).
The Cinematic is a weekly column about all things movies. Look for it every Friday.

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