Who would've thought that a movie whose entire punch line is that the black protagonist is a law abiding citizen and not a "thug" would cause some controversy? Get Hard, the new prison-buddy comedy starring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, premiered at South by Southwest Monday afternoon and there was reportedly just as much laughter as there was wincing and face-palming from the audience, Variety reports.
Director Etan Cohen participated in a live Q&A after the screening and many audience members failed to see the humor in the film's uninspired racial humor, homophobia and trivializing of prison rape. "This film seemed racist as fuck," said one attendee, frank as fuck. Cohen seemed at a loss for words according to Variety, but attempted to offer a diplomatic response:
"The truth is, that was a delicate balance to find. When we were testing the movie, Ferguson was going on. It was hard to modulate … how far to push it."
The comedy, which finds Ferrell dropping the N-bomb as he enlists the help of Hart to teach him how to survive in jail, doesn't just stop at perpetuating ugly stereotypes about black people. Hard also gleefully leaves gays, Hispanics and prison culture on the receiving end of tone-deaf jokes. After audience members continued to double-down and put pressure on Cohen to defend his direction, he ended the Q&A with this justification:
"When you do satire, that’s a big problem. That’s a dangerous thing. It’s a very small window–that’s what we’re trying to find."
Get Hard opens nationwide March 27th.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart also participated in the post-screening Q&A.