FOR some people, work is a means to an end: pay the mortgage, fund the children through college, save for the annual holiday.
The nine-to-five grind is tolerable with a caring, considerate and good-humoured boss to turn to in times of need.
However, if the person at the top is going to tread on your fingers every time you try to clamber up a rung on the career ladder, then the only way is down ... to the pits of despair.
Seth Gordon’s filthy-minded black comedy revels in the anguish of three friends who are burdened with bosses from hell.
The solution to their dilemma comes from an ex-con in a bar: “Why don’t you kill each other’s bosses?”
It’s an ingenious ploy, borrowed from Hitchcock’s Strangers On A Train, but as that classic film proved, the best laid plans are always one twist of cruel fate shy of disaster.
Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman) is an underling at a finance company, ruled with a steely glare by Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), who has hinted that Nick will be in line for a promotion if he arrives at 6am every day.
When said promotion fails to materialise and Nick boldly challenges Dave’s authority, the executive snarls, “I own you. So settle in – you’re here for the long haul.”
Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis) loves his job at a company run by Jack Pellitt (Donald Sutherland), who treats Kurt as more of a son than the cocaine-snorting fruit of his loins, Bobby (Colin Farrell).
Jack suffers a heart attack and Bobby seizes control of the company, gleefully draining the company accounts dry.
Dental assistant Dale Arbus (Charlie Day) is sexually harassed by his boss, Dr Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), who intends to get Dale between the sheets before he marries fiancee Stacy (Lindsay Sloane).
When jailbird Dean Jones (Jamie Foxx) plants the idea of a chain reaction of seemingly accidental deaths, the three men are intrigued.
“It’s not murder if it’s justified,” rationalises Kurt.
There’s a whiff of The Hangover about Horrible Bosses in the initial set-up of three men embarking on a madcap journey of self-discovery that involved drugs, a psychopathic pet and Aniston performing unspeakable acts with the contents of her fridge.
The cast throw themselves at the material with admirable gusto, particularly the three villains of the piece, who live up the billing as horrible bosses.
Some of the set pieces are contrived with a certain pay-off in mind and the characterisation is thin, particularly the odious Bobby, who is barely in the film.
The plot is equally flimsy and the three screenwriters struggle to bring the murderous mayhem to a satisfying conclusion.
They need to learn that you have to be able to finish what you start.