The Other Guys

For the first couple of minutes, Adam McKay’s frantic, funny buddy-cop comedy The Other Guys seems precisely like the kind of pyrotechnic action adventure Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer knocked out during the grim, high-concept 1980s. Swaggering super-policemen Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson) race through the New York streets, firing off guns at random and reducing the streets to rubble in a series of mushroom-cloud fireballs, the same ones that top-line stars always emerge from unscathed. Shortly afterwards, Highsmith and Danson make an unexpected and permanent exit, leaving the road clear for their successors, mild-mannered forensic accountant Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and his unwilling partner Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), an uptight loose cannon.

Somehow (the plotting is never entirely coherent) Gamble and Hoitz become involved in an investigation into a massive fraud perpetrated by Steve Coogan’s unctuous billionaire David Ershon. The more the two idiots dig around in Ershon’s affairs, the more pressure their superiors apply to have then drop the case. Eventually, with the help of their despairing captain (Michael Keaton), the two find a way to connect the billionaire investor with a deeper corporate conspiracy, a pointed message about the recent financial meltdown that sees the film conclude with an odd series of Michael Moore-like title cards that explain the mechanics behind a Ponzi Scheme. The loose plot is, of course, entirely beside the point and exists only as a platform for Ferrell to deliver a series of very funny riffs on various subjects.

McKay has scripted and directed a series of successful comedies with his chosen leading man Ferrell, from Anchorman to Step Brothers, with The Other Guys proving a close fit for the pair’s well-established blend of surreal comedy, sight-gags, subversive genre homages and incongruous celebrity cameos. Ferrell is very funny here, even if he is operating well within his limits as the dunderheaded, oblivious cop. As is so often the case with Ferrell, the funniest lines appear to be throw-away non-sequiturs, often delivered as off-screen asides. Perhaps the film’s greatest surprise is the delicate, frequently hilarious performance from Mark Wahlberg who plays the straight-man Hoitz as a frustrated Alpha male with barely concealed psychopathic tendencies. From the secondary cast, Eva Mendes gives a neat turn as Gamble’s unexpectedly beautiful and dutiful wife while Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans are outstanding as a pair of teeth-gratingly irritating fellow cops, straining to become the new superstars on the force.

The Other Guys is not a comic masterpiece for the ages but it is about as good as audiences can expect from a late-summer studio offering. It doesn’t all work, there are a couple of sequences that fall completely flat, but when Ferrell and Wahlberg do click, the film hums with an irresistible comic energy, combining note-perfect character comedy with a delirious send-up of cop-movie clichés.

1 comment:

Jordan Ruimy said...

meh, i thought it was a mixd bag of sorts. Ferrell has done much better. Old School being is best work yet.