There’s a point fairly early on in Rough Night that will probably cause some viewers to check out of the movie. (And since the plot hinges on it and it’s in the trailer, I’m going to be free with spoilers.) After traveling to Miami for what’s turned into an unexpectedly fraught bachelorette weekend thrown by her college best friend Alice (Jillian Bell), Jess (Scarlett Johansson) discovers that the first night isn’t quite over. Encouraged by the other partygoers — fellow college pals Blair (Zoë Kravitz) and and Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and Pippa (Kate McKinnon), Jess’s friend from studying abroad in Australia — has decided to hire a stripper. Though nervous about even getting a drop of red wine on the carpet of the house they’re borrowing for the weekend, Jess is into it, up to the point where the stripper starts to get too aggressive and insulting. At this point, Alice decides she’d like his attention and, misjudging a leap into his lap, knocks his head against the corner of a shelf and kills him.
Director Lucia Aniello, a veteran of Broad City, doesn’t play the scene for laughs and the panic that sets in on Jess and her friends makes it seem as if what’s up to this point been a fairly light comedy is about to take a turn for the noir. It’s more scary than funny and threatens to transform Rough Night into an entirely different sort of movie. This doesn’t last for long, however, which sort of encapsulates what makes Rough Night uneven but also what makes it so compelling. It’s all over the place, but it’s always willing to take chances. The movie goes for it.