An action thriller featuring heroes seriously impaired by pot consumption, Pineapple Express is just another reason to call Seth Rogen one of the best comic actors working today. It also offers a reason to take note of the comic talents of one James Franco, who absolutely kills as a stoner whose exclusive line of marijuana gets him into a world of trouble.
Process-server Dale Denton (Rogen) has a good life. He drives around all day, changing into fun costumes to serve people with court papers. He smokes a lot of reefer, which requires frequent visits to his wasted dealer, Saul Silver (Franco), the exclusive area seller of Pineapple Express, a very potent type of weed. He sells some to Dale, who immediately inhales. While parked in front of a house enjoying his purchase, Dale witnesses a sadistic drug lord (Gary Cole) and a dirty cop (Rosie Perez) murdering a rival.
Dale goes on the run, taking Saul with him. What follows is a very funny, ultra-creative thriller that reminds of old-school action films like Nighthawks and Beverly Hills Cop, with the one major distinction being that the protagonists here are constantly stoned.
The film is directed by the very talented David Gordon Green, whose previous works include George Washington, All the Real Girls and Snow Angels. His crossover to comedy is not unlike Paul Thomas Anderson's work on Punch-Drunk Love. This film is constantly funny, but there's a reasonable amount of depth to Green's filmmaking. He shoots a good-looking picture, and he also opts for a serious violent approach. If you can't handle massive bloodletting, this film isn't for you.
Watching Rogen and Franco in fistfights and gunfights is the stuff of movie dreams. There's a car chase where Franco exclaims, "I can see through my leg hole!" and it's a gut-busting moment. The film's finale, a nicely staged demolition of a pot factory posing as a farm house, displays expert, quality action filmmaking. I love the moment when Rogen sails through the air, superhero-style, to take out his enemy.
Rogen is evolving into a sustainable comic force. He and co-writer Evan Goldberg have delivered a spectacular follow-up to their Superbad script, and they are proving to be one of the most gifted comedy-writing teams going. Rogen has a way with his line deliveries that makes everything feel natural or improvised. When he gets started on a comic riff, he just builds and builds until what started as merely funny becomes truly hilarious. It's a blessed thing watching him work.
Franco is the perfect complement to Rogen. I count his very first moment in the film, eating strawberries and guffawing at The Jeffersons, as one of the year's funniest, and he maintains that level of humor throughout his performance. He's one of the all-time-great screen stoners. Danny McBride is also seriously funny as fellow dealer Red, a man who gets caught up in the situation and has a major talent for taking bullets.
It's a great thing when a movie comes along that bends genres. Pineapple Express makes you laugh while remaining interesting as a thriller piece. I never thought I'd see Rogen as an action hero, or Franco displaying comic genius, yet Pineapple Express delivers this and so much more. It's one of the summer's greatest surprises.
Rogen has mentioned the possibility of more adventures featuring Dale and Saul--and that's definitely something I would want to see.