The Other Guys

Ferrell and Wahlberg's sensibilities are pitch-perfect for this script.

Though Kevin Smith’s recent buddy cop dud Cop Out makes a good case for an amnesty on cop spoofs, the ever-trusty Adam McKay assures us that there is still plenty ripe to laugh about. Like many of McKay’s films, The Other Guys may run a tad too long, and, of course, it just isn’t Anchorman, but it is a surprisingly sharp skewering of buddy cop clichés, lent tremendous weight by Will Ferrell’s performance especially, which is his funniest since 2008’s Step Brothers, also directed by McKay.

The titular other guys are two down-and-out cops, paper pushing forensic accountant Allen Gamble (Ferrell), and high-strung Detective Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg). Much to Hoitz’s chagrin, he has been paired with the fairly chipper and satisfied Gamble for several years as a form of punishment for Hoitz, who made a rather unpopular (and hilarious) error of judgement in the line of duty. However, when the precinct’s two hot-shot cops – Danson (Dwayne Johnson) and Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) – are incapacitated in the line of duty, it is up to these rusty losers to try and save the day, as an embezzling operation headed up by Sir David Ershon (Steve Coogan) seems to have something more to it…..

To adequately convey what type of a film The Other Guys is, you don’t need a review, you need a check-list; it is as though, quite rightly, McKay has sat down, watched his Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop box-sets, maybe indulged in Bad Boys, and then mastered the art of exaggeration in satirising the altogether lousier (albeit funnier) elements of these sorts of films. The opening car chase – which sees Jackson and Johnson cause $12m worth of damage in order to capture a group of low-level criminals – sets the film’s silly, yet oddly astute tone, and McKay follows through as he always does, by casting his roles superbly.

Ferrell is unquestionably the highlight, effortlessly steamrolling each and every one of Wahlberg’s aggressive cop declarations, only heightening his character’s exasperation and consequently, heightening the laugh factor also. This is certainly Ferrell’s meatiest comic role in some time, and it goes a measure to redeem him for the shambolic Land of the Lost. Wahlberg, meanwhile, is naturally a good fit as the straight man off of whom Ferrell plays, yet he is surprising in his comic timing, perhaps having some of that flair left over from his magnificently funny, Oscar-nominated turn in The Departed. Why so many of McKay’s films work is thanks not only to the lead performers, but the support, too, and here McKay has made some inspired choices; Michael Keaton, in a similar act of redemption for his embarrassing turn in Post Grad, is a slam dunk as the walking cliché of a worn-out, fed-up, moonlighting, TLC-quoting police Captain, and Steve Coogan can play the snotty suit in his sleep by now.

Just about every possible cop convention in the book – except perhaps for an alcoholism subplot – is exploited for maximum laughter here; the inept cop who fires his gun ill-advisedly, the hyperactive bravado of the squad’s jock-like cops, exploding buildings, bribery, good cop/bad cop, everything being involved with drugs, half-baked drama and so on. McKay, however, is keen to highlight a few smart observations of his own; Eva Mendes, as Ferrell’s smoking-hot, doting wife, who Ferrell’s character seems to treat with an odd air of modesty, even disappointment, generates a ton of comic frisson between the two leads, and Wahlberg’s reaction to the progressively-expanding list of Ferrell’s outrageous sexual conquests is priceless.

The plot, meanwhile, barely makes sense, and that’s kind of the point; people accidentally sitting on phones and errant lottery tickets hold the key to the film’s silly mysteries, but for all they’re worth, they may as well be McKayGuffins, because this is the Ferrell and Marky Mark show. That said, the several action scenes are rendered with a surprising level of competence by McKay, who proves himself no slouch, keeping things exciting while being sure to include the ever-popular shot of a car crashing sideways into a parked car in slow motion. With this – and an amusing abundance of saxophone music – it is clear that McKay has all of his senses trained on the effort at hand.

With a winning blend of the nutty absurdism that has endeared his works to audiences thus far, McKay finds himself another success, mired in the stew of police procedural clichés, and wanting for nothing more than a ton of money (the film cost $100m, which is more than most actual action films, for crying out loud) and a game cast. The inevitable complaint arises that it just isn’t Anchorman, but then, what is?.


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