In Road Hard, Bruce Madsen (Adam Carolla) is forced to go back on the road after his movie and television career has run dry, playing one dingy comedy club after another, spending endless nights in budget hotel rooms and always flying coach. Amidst trying to revitalize his career, rekindle his love life and put his daughter through college, Bruce knows one thing for sure - he must get off the road. Road Hard is the story of that journey.
Comedian Adam Carolla re-teams with 'The Hammer's Kevin Hench to co-write and co-direct 'Road Hard', a marginally autobiographical comedy, with Carolla starring as Bruce Madsen, a stand-up comedian who believes his career could be so much better if he could get off the road and back onto a weekly television series. While Carolla is actually pretty good in the movie, its screenplay tries to do far too much in its running time, getting bogged down with unnecessary 'serious' subplots, when a much more straightforward comedy probably would have made for a better film.
The movie works best when Carolla's character is on the road performing, and viewers can't help but wonder just how many of the situations that Bruce Madsen finds himself in during the course of this story are actually events that happened to Carolla in real life. Not only are there stand-up related issues, like the club owner who doesn't deliver on his guaranteed paycheck, but things that any frequent traveler can relate to – such as getting stuck next to the most annoying person on the entire plane and not being able to get the key card to work in your hotel room's door.
There's also a thread of darkness and depression in the movie, as Madsen (although he'll never admit to it when people ask) seems more than a bit jealous that his former TV partner (played by Jay Mohr) has gone on to be a late night talk show success, while most of the American public seems to have forgotten Bruce exists. Of course, this is a less-than-subtle analogy to Carolla's real-life former 'The Man Show' partner, Jimmy Kimmel, who now has his own late night show on ABC – although, unlike his cinematic role here, Carolla is actually doing quite nicely for himself these days.
Where 'Road Hard' goes off course is by giving Bruce an ex-wife (Illeana Douglas) and daughter (Cynthy Wu) to add to his troubles. While he has a good relationship with his daughter, he's less enamored with his ex, who – along with her new beau, Chad (David Koechner) – he keeps trying to convince to sell their former home and move out of Los Angeles. These scenes seem less pulled from Carolla's own life (Carolla is married with kids – but happily, as far as we know), and perhaps that is why they come off as some of the least convincing and least entertaining bits of the movie.
'Road Hard' veers into romantic territory during its final act, with Bruce meeting and eventually falling in love with a woman named Sarah (Diane Farr), who he first meets on the road and then crosses paths with a few more times until they finally decide to go out on a date together. Sarah is from New Hampshire and introduces Bruce to what his life might be like if he gave up on his comedy career. Naturally, this leads to a conclusion where he must choose what kind of life he wants to have…and, no, you don't get any bonus points for guessing what he decides.
There's much to like about 'Road Hard' and, yes, there are more than a few laughs to be had along the way. The biggest problem with the movie though is just how uneven the whole thing feels…as if the screenplay needed to go through a few more re-writes before it was shot. As I mentioned earlier, the best parts of this movie are when the character of Bruce is out on the road going from city to city and the worst parts are when he's back at home trying to deal with family-related issues. Had the movie made Bruce a bachelor with no previous ties, it might have made for a stronger story. That said, I still think 'Road Hard' is worth checking out – particularly if you're a Carolla fan – but it's probably only something you'll want to rent rather than add to your permanent collection.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Road Hard' journeys onto Blu-ray in an eco-friendly Elite keepcase, which houses the single-layer 25GB disc, with no inserts. The Blu-ray is front-loaded with a trailer for 'Apartment Troubles'. The main menu consists of a montage of footage from the movie, with menu selections running across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray is Region A-locked.</p
'Road Hard' was shot digitally on Arri Alexa equipment and is presented here in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. While the actual cinematography of 'Road Hard' isn't anything spectacular or even that creative, the actual image of the transfer is bright, colorful, and with a nice amount of depth and detail to the picture. Facial features are well-defined and flesh tones are properly balanced and natural-looking throughout. Black levels are solid, which is helpful during many of the movie's club sequences. I saw just the slightest hint of aliasing in some of the outdoor establishing shots, but otherwise this is a fine-looking transfer that really makes for an enjoyable visual experience in high-def.
The main (and, in fact, the only) audio track here is an English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD lossless track that is more than enough for a movie where much of the screen time is spent with the main character doing stand-up on stage or having sit-down conversations with his friends and family. While the dialogue itself is primarily upfront, the rear speakers are frequently used (and quite noticeably) for ambient sounds and to enhance the handful of musical numbers that appear in the film. I found those songs to be mixed a little louder than I would have preferred, but since they're rarely used at the same time dialogue is being spoken, it's not a horrible distraction. Overall, this is a pretty solid sounding track with no noticeable glitches evident.
In addition to the lossless track, subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.
Adam Carolla almost delivers a good movie with 'Road Hard', a semi-autobiographical look at the stand-up comedy life of a struggling comedian. While the stuff on the road is very good, the film gets bogged down with too much of the main character's home life, although a romance that takes up most of the movie's third act works quite well. This is an uneven film that's not quite all it might have been, but it's still worth a look. Rent it.