Before last month's world-premiere showing of Observe and Report at SXSW Film Festival, writer-director Jody Hill took the stage and introduced his comedy to a capacity crowd with, "I'd like to thank Warner Bros. for letting us make a weird-ass movie with their money."

Before last month's world-premiere showing of Observe and Report at SXSW Film Festival, writer-director Jody Hill took the stage and introduced his comedy to a capacity crowd with, "I'd like to thank Warner Bros. for letting us make a weird-ass movie with their money."

As the audience soon found out, Hill has reason to be thankful. His follow-up to The Foot Fist Way places Seth Rogen, arguably the most beloved comic actor in America, in the role of Ronnie Barnhardt, a supremely dysfunctional, not easily likeable mall security guard.

And as his story of vigilante justice involving a flasher who's terrorized Ronnie's makeup-counter dream girl Brandi (Anna Faris) plays out, the viewer's hard-pressed to find a single sympathetic character.

The film's unapologetically dark comic tone brings to mind Martin Scorsese's King of Comedy, but it's actually a closer cousin to Taxi Driver. The day after the premiere, in a panel discussion that included Hill, Rogen, Faris and co-stars Michael Pena and Danny McBride, moderator Elvis Mitchell immediately brought up the connection.

"I wanted to use a mall as a weird microcosm, use it as a symbol like the taxi in Taxi Driver," Hill explained.

Rogen signed on after reading Hill's first draft of the script. "I thought it was pretty awesome and nuts," he said.

Still, according to Hill and Rogen, Warner Bros. wasn't sold so easily, and sought to water down the movie's humor - for example, the many shots of the flasher in action.

"There's this thing called 'development,' " Hill explained. "It's where you turn in the draft you want to make and it progressively gets kicked down a notch."

Rogen recalled telling studio execs, " 'We're showing some nuts in this movie. Don't get all weird when there's d--- all over the screen. Ka-kunk, ka-kunk, ka-kunk.' And not shockingly, they fought really hard when they saw it."

Faris also expected studio interference, having experienced her fair share on The House Bunny, and figured several of her scenes - including one of the most uncomfortably hilarious sexual encounters ever filmed - would never make final cut.

"I just thought, this script is so fun, so wrong, and there's no way the studio's going to let us get away with this," she said.

But what you'll see when Observe and Report opens on Friday is pretty much what Hill intended. The filmmaker fought hard to maintain his vision, and with more than a little support from Rogen and his proven box-office power, Hill's kept his latter-day Travis Bickle from becoming another Paul Blart.

She's one of the funniest women in America, and we've got an exclusive interview. Click to the Bad and the Beautiful blog at ColumbusAlive.com for an audio podcast with "Observe and Report" co-star Anna Faris.