Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, Ray Stevenson, Rob Riggle, Damon Wayans. Jr with Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson
Plot: When the two local hero cops are put out of action, two unlikely heroes (Ferrell, Wahlberg), try to step up to the plate.
The Other Guys blows its budget on a gloriously over-the-top action sequence. Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson have a blast, parodying every cop cliché in the book. They cut an explosive car chase across the city of New York, destroying property, bones and putting civilians in reckless danger, all because they catch a group of perps carrying a small portion of marijuana. It is the kind of role that Jackson and Johnson are used to, so they take it extraordinary lengths. Sam Jackson yells dumb action cheeseball lines, while Dwayne Johnson’s character is having an affair with Kim Kardashian. Don’t tell Kanye. When the sequence is over, the camera pans over to two cops, quietly standing in the background. Will Ferrell’s office drone, buttoned up shirt, accountant spectacles and chirpy pathetic aura. Mark Wahlberg’s slouching grump in dire need of an anger management course. The true heroes of the movie.
Believe it or not, despite the hilarious opening, it is Wahlberg and Ferrell who make this movie. While some of the jokes are lost in an edit too quick to let certain gags breathe (Michael Keaton is great, but at the mercy of a trigger-happy editor), it is when the two lead stars are together that The Other Guys comes alive. Ferrell is predictably amusing. His character is a storm of oxymorons and contradictions. At first sight, he is the nerdy guy at the office, comfortable with doing second portions of paperwork and keeping his head down in a stable job. He is also very prone to the standard Will Ferrell outburst. One monologue where he turns Wahlberg’s threatening metaphor about lions and tuna right around on his head is a sucker-punch of a gag. Other moments see him ‘go Ferrell’, like scenes where he interrupts Wahlberg’s romantic intervention or recovers from an explosion. However, there are several unusual beats to the character that sets him apart from the usual Ferrell archetype (is there such thing?). For one, his origin story is undeniably genius. For another, his list of past girlfriends is laugh out loud, especially his chemistry with wife Eva Mendes, earning some of the more uncomfortable, yet side-splitting moments. Mark Wahlberg, on the other hand, sticks to cliché. He is the typical angry detective, emotional outbursts at the slightest issue and eager to dive right into the action. The fun comes from the fact he is benched by his bookish partner, a man trying to stick to paperwork and fraud crimes rather than what Wahlberg considers real police-work. The two of them grow together into an off-beat partnership, Wahlberg’s homophobic stereotype, struggling being in a Will Ferrell comedy. How does a macho cop handle his partner impulsively buying him a present? The comedy sizzles with the two stars riffing off of each other. Wahlberg is tremendous here, this being on the first times he flexes his comedy muscles. Ted has seen him hone these skills, but The Other Guys shows the actor try a new genre and come out of it remarkably well.
The action is less precise. It is clearly a vehicle to get the two stars where they need to be. Steve Coogan and Ray Stevenson play the various bad guys, caught up in a conspiracy that Ferrell accidentally blunders into. The plot doesn’t make much sense on a first watch, but then again, does it really need to? It acts as a narrative device to make Ferrell and Wahlberg struggle and crack under pressure. It does kind of hurt the movie’s smooth pace, but as it races through contrived plot point after convenient joke-setting-up, we are treated to long periods of comedy in return. Yes, it means it isn’t quite as consistent as some of McKay’s other work, but it is an excellent riff on the cop genre.
Final Verdict: A fine turn from Ferrell and Wahlberg in a busy but amusing cop parody.