When history looks back at The Interview, the latest comedy with Seth Rogen and James Franco, it will talk mainly about the scandal around its release. Telling the controversial story of an assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the actual North Korean government issued a statement threatening ‘merciless’ action against Colombia Pictures if it went ahead with a national release. The film was delayed from October to December to make cuts that would make it more acceptable, but following the Sony hacks by the ‘Guardians of Peace’ Colombia pulled distribution. This comes from apparent fears of the FBI that the Guardians were a North Korean group of hackers. Whether that’s true or not, The Interview was released on video on demand and had a rather impressive opening weekend (no doubt fuelled by curiosity and misplaced patriotism).
Daily talk show host Dylan Skylark (Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapaport (Rogen) are invited to interview North Korean head of state Kim Jong-un (Randall Park). While preparing for the trip they are contacted by the CIA and convinced to assassinate the man. Initially agreeing to the plot, Dylan begins to befriend Kim after discovering that life in North Korea is not as bad as is being reported in the Western media. However a series of revelations put the two men in a troublesome position.
As with a lot of Rogen/Goldberg/Franco films, The Interview starts with some hilarious set-piece jokes and clearly ad-libbed one-liners. It really is laugh-out-loud as the central duo use their well-established chemistry to bounce off one another and while there don’t do anything to really elevate their standard routine, it is always fun to see straight-man Rogen alongside the crazy, scenery-chewing version of Franco. Sadly, also like their previous collaborations the film descends into poorly played farce around the mid-way point and goes downhill pretty quickly.
There are elements of trying to keep North Korea happy with the presentation of the oppressed minority and Kim Jong-un is actually meant to be reasonably sympathetic to begin with. However once the tank is introduced and people start biting off other peoples fingers. In fact the level of gore is not only shocking, but completely misplaced and leaves a rather confused audience to drag their way to the finish, unsure of whether there was ever a serious point to made, or whether this is another excuse for the best friends to have some fun on set.
There really is rather special political satire in here, one that cleverly courts controversy but is in desperate need of a good edit. At nearly two hours in length it drags and drags and the one key to good satire is to keep it simple and short. With a decent editor attached they could have created something truly daring and memorable. As it is, the limp carcass of The Interview ends with an explosive bang, but a narrative whimper.