The Other Guys
We've all seen mismatched buddy cop films
in which the action gets bigger, faster, louder and makes
less and less sense. Millions of dollars of property damage
and we just don't care, because we got an adrenaline thrill.
The guys that cause all that mayhem for our enjoyment? We
Then there are The Other Guys. Standing
in the shadows, doing all the paperwork and generally not
getting noticed, they also serve who stand and wait, right?
In this case, they're Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry
Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), two misfits barely worthy of breathing
the same air as Highsmith and Danson (Samuel L. Jackson
and Dwayne Johnson). They're what some might call pluggers,
though Hoitz believes he's a peacock. No one can convince
him that peacocks can't fly.
Writer/Director Adam McKay gives cop movies
a pretty good drubbing, and has the sense to do it well.
As over the top as our first look at Highsmith and Danson
is, it's not hard to see it lifted from some other movie
meant to star Jackson and Johnson. Heck, Jackson even borrows
his wardrobe from Shaft.
But McKay has two other stars, and the
focus shifts over to them as they see an opportunity to
become hotshots. Actually, only Hoitz sees it; Gamble happily
does the scut work as a hard-hitting police accountant.
When he discovers that high-risk fund manager David Ershon
(Steve Coogan) has been doing some home improvements without
scaffolding permits, however, Gamble's sense of justice
has been incensed.
You know the drill. Of course this minor
crime causes the other guys to stumble into something much
larger, involving high finance, Ray Stevenson's menacing
security chief and the crime that Highsmith and Danson investigated
at the beginning of the movie.
In a lot of ways, The Other Guys
plays it by the numbers, at least as far as plotting goes.
But McKay and co-writer Chris Henchy also have a different
sensibility, and the script also has a looser, anything
goes vibe that goes right back to McKay's days with Second
City. There's a plot, and it holds together, but the movie
keeps making these goofy little side trips.
Until about the last half hour, it works.
Then the side trips have to stop and the movie becomes a
standard cop story, with an unexpectedly bitter undercurrent
that runs through the closing titles. That doesn't quite
match up with the rest of the movie, but thanks anyway,
guys, for the lesson.
Ferrell dumps his arrogant idiot pose and
goes back to something more like Buddy the Elf. Though Gamble
has a dark secret in his past - not quite as funny as the
movie thinks it is - he now seems pretty clueless and happy
in his milquetoast existence. Hot women adore him, none
more so than his wife, played by Eva Mendes in one of the
movie's better jokes, though the trailer gives away most
On the other side of the desk, Wahlberg
channels Andy Samberg doing his Mark Wahlberg impression,
playing up the breathiness and volatile side of his persona.
He does have good timing, and never gives in to winking
at his character, even when surrounded by actors that are
And there are plenty. Jackson and Johnson
really aren't there for anything other than being the most
obnoxious versions of themselves they can be. That rolls
down to Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans, Jr., playing echoes
of the bigger stars in a joke that doesn't quite work because
they're not as well known.
Shifting over into exasperated police captain
mode, former wild man Michael Keaton keeps a tight lid on
things, in a reminder that he never lost his touch. Too
bad we lost touch.
And Steve Coogan continues doing solid
work in American films that will never quite get what makes
him tick as a comic. He maintains a dry sensibility, but
doesn't get to cut loose in the way he could with Hamlet
2. It's not that he's at odds with the material; there's
just not a lot of room for him in a role that could have
been played by anyone with a British sneer.
The Other Guys is probably our last
best hope for a good comedy this summer, at least on purpose.
The laughs are strong, McKay takes some risks, and nobody
takes it as seriously as The Expendables might.