Set to the backdrop of large-scale financial crime and scandal, the Adam McKay-directed The Other Guys is part buddy cop movie and part outrageous comedy sprinkled with dabs of absurdist action/drama. It is as unconventional as it sounds, and at times, proves to be a tough slog, but surprising results at its conclusion make this the surprise comedy hit of the year.
Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are an out-of-sorts detective pairing that has spent more time at a desk than out in the field. Ferrell’s character (Allen Gamble) is tied to his computer because he’s hiding a less-than-savory past while Wahlberg’s Terry Hoitz was demoted for hilariously shooting Derek Jeter in the leg and conceding the Yankees to a World Series loss (and for any real New Yorker, a big deal). They’re both offbeat but of a different nature, Gamble is smart, reserved, painfully dorky, while Hoitz is angry and disgruntled. Their characters provide much of the movie’s comedic friction between two diverging points of view. It’s unexpected too, with Wahlberg proving to be as good as an action star as he is a deadpan humorist. He doesn’t do much laughing in the movie, just lots of shouting, blank stares and pitch-perfect one-liners delivered with unexpectedly great comic timing. Ferrell on the other hand, juggles his over-the-top routine with more subdued but equally funny quips that is typical Ferrell, but just a little less Ron Burgundy.
The two find themselves thrust into the center of the scandal after New York’s most ridiculous and gung-ho detective duo (brief but welcome appearances from Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson) are put out of commission. These two were the supercops of the city, and much of the humor comes from Gamble and Hoitz trying to emulate their success with their own brand of police work as they attempt to overcome one obstacle after another. Steve Coogan plays white-collar criminal and investment guru David Ershon, whose bumbling but conniving character is good enough to propel the story, if not a little underused. Michael Keaton and Eva Mendes are good in their supporting roles with Keaton’s police chief by day and Bed Bath & Beyond employee by weekend as funny as Keaton’s been in years. Mendes’ turn as Gamble’s suprisingly beautiful wife is a good running gag- played off well by the dumbfounded and perplexed reaction we get from Wahlberg’s character during their initial meeting. There’s a lot to take in with the smorgasbord of characters on show weaving in and out of the story, and the movie does its best to try and maintain cohesion amongst the humor. Gamble and Hoitz are no Riggs and Murtaugh, but there is a far more genuine bond between the two than any two-cop pairing since the first Bad Boys.
Collectively, the strong cast is able to offset the unstable nature of the movie’s comedic premise. Those expecting the same kind of brainless humor in Talladega Nights or Step Brothers will probably be disappointed with The Other Guys and it’s more textured jokes. It’s a modern hybrid of the absurd with the conventional, all done with ample intelligence. Alongside Judd Apatow, McKay has been on the forefront of the recent drive of changing comedy. It’s smarter humor, one without a laugh track, and unfortunately it’s lost amongst some. But regardless of its reception, The Other Guys is genuinely one of the funniest movies of the year, succeeding by telling a good joke with smarts and cool confidence.
THE OTHER GUYS
Directed by: Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johson
Released by: Gary Sanchez Productions / Columbia Pictures