In 2002, most of us had no idea that Neil Patrick Harris was a comic genius. It had been five long years since the former Doogie Howser had surprised audiences with his creepy-clever turn in Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers -- five years in which Harris had taken guest appearances in made-for-TV movies and sitcoms, done one season in a little-seen comedy of his own opposite Tony Shalhoub (Stark Raving Mad, from producer Steven Levitan, creator of Modern Family), voiced cartoon characters, and made a name for himself on Broadway in productions of Sweeney Todd, Assassins, Proof and Cabaret.

While most people can recall Harris playing a deranged, drugged-up version of himself in 2004's Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, they may have well missed him in an earlier, equally surprising role in Undercover Brother. It would be another three years before How I Met Your Mother made him an A-list TV star, but the first faint glimmer of that career trajectory can be seen in these two films.
As Lance, the intern and only white member of the black spy organization B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. (hired as part of an affirmative action program), Harris plays sixth banana to actors Eddie Griffin, Dave Chapelle, Chi McBride, Billy Dee Williams and Aunjanue Ellis in a solid, if unmemorable, parody of blaxploitation films and spy flicks. But he has one exceptionally funny scene -- pushed beyond his endurance at being called a "sissy," the tightly wound Lance finally cracks, and the violence he unleashes is as hilarious as it is unexpected.

If you've never imagined Neil Patrick Harris as an ultra-violent action hero, check out the clip below. Beware, though -- it may be funny, but it's not for the squeamish.

categories Cinematical