HORRIBLE Bosses has a great premise. Who hasn’t imagined killing their boss at one time or another?

Some of us have even gone so far as to buy piano wire, duct tape, garbage bags and a tidal forecast chart.

But even though it is consistently amusing, it never quite delivers the gut-busting laughs that it needs to make a memorable comedy.

It sees three friends (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis) whose lives are made a daily misery by their employers – slave-driving supercilious sadist Harken (Kevin Spacey), sleazy cokehead Pelitt (Colin Farrell) and aggressive sexual predator Julia (Jennifer Aniston).

At their collective wit’s end, they decide to murder each other’s bosses (with a rather disturbing lack of hesitance) and enlist the help of a “murder consultant” Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx) to plan their deaths. But naturally, things don’t go quite according to plan.

The performances are uniformly good, Spacey gleefully reprising a character he played in Swimming With Sharks back in 1994.

He’s got a wonderful way of conveying his utter contempt for others and so compelling you keep hoping he won't die early so he can pour some more vitriol on his hapless victims.

But the big surprise is Jennifer Aniston who, in a departure from churning out generic romantic comedies, delivers her best performance in ages, displaying great comic timing which almost everyone must have forgotten she had.

Colin Farrell (almost unrecognisable behind the comb-over and paunch) is easily the most contemptible of the three (does more coke than Tony Montana, fires disabled employees, conducts orgies in his office) but actually has very little screen time.

Jamie Foxx as the “hilariously” named Motherfucker Jones may as well not exist at all for all the impact he has on the plot - whole scenes could be deleted with almost no consequence.

News Shopper: MOVIE REVIEW: Horrible Bosses ***

The three friends spark off each other nicely.

Jason Bateman is effortlessly likable and has some great chemistry with Jason Sudeikis (who successfully atones here for his part in Hall Pass released earlier this year) – there’s a memorably funny scene in which the two of them argue over who would be more rape-able if they went to prison.

It’s also nice to see Charlie Day emerging from his small screen role in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia to big screen fare although he’s not really given much to do apart from shout like a hyperactive child.

It’s frustrating that the script doesn’t have the guts to make it much darker than it actually is.

This is a film which features attempted murder, actual murder, breaking and entering, sexual assault and drug binges – it’s just a shame that all of these are played for safe comfortable laughs rather than something a bit more cutting.

Regardless, it’s still pretty funny and keeps up a consistent rate of chuckles with some cracking performances and a likable cast. It’s a welcome distraction but certainly not a keeper.

Horrible Bosses (15) is out tomorrow.