Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg
Runtime: 107 mins
A cop movie whose cast boasts Mark Wahlberg, Michael Keaton, and Eva Mendes doesn’t sound like the latest Will Ferrell/Adam McKay film; but maybe if you’d been in serious police dramas like The Corruptor, Desperate Measures and Training Day, then you’d be happy to jump onboard with the duo behind Anchorman and Talladega Nights to show audiences that you still had a sense of humour. Indeed, Ferrell’s comic persona has become immensely popular, whilst remaining fairly divisive. If it’s your kind of humour (as it definitely is mine), then The Other Guys is Ferrell back on form for the first time, really, since 2007’s Blades of Glory.
Like that film and Step Brothers, The Other Guys is a double act, but wastes no time going down the obvious road of showing how the odd couple of Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are forced into partnership. We meet detectives Hoitz and Gamble already arguing across their desks, in an NYPD office where they’re looked down upon by their captain (Michael Keaton) and a pair of heroic, all-star policemen (Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson). Whilst Gamble prefers paperwork to gunfights, refusing all calls to action, the pair find soon uncover a multi-billion dollar scam involving investor David Ershon (Steve Coogan).
The dialogue exchanges, running jokes and bizarre-and-ridiculous-but-hilarious tangents are Ferrell and McKay at their best (though the former doesn’t have a writing credit on this outing). The characters of Ron Burgundy and Ricky Bobby are hotshots who are really losers; in The Other Guys, without being overemphasised, this is reversed for Ferrell’s Allen Gamble, and the film doesn’t lose anything as a result. Wahlberg and the rest of the ensemble, perhaps with the exception of Steve Coogan, fit in well, as none of them are cast for eccentric qualities they don’t have. Keaton in particular has a strong presence, handling the anonymous informational aspects of his part believably alongside some of the best one-liners in the movie.
In a way, The Other Guys is an American Hot Fuzz, being a comedy which parodies but thoroughly enjoys its action-movie status. Most of the time, the car chases, helicopter explosions and gunfights merge nicely with the humour. What doesn’t gel as easily is the fraud scandal storyline, which is played for its recession-era value in a couple of surprising ways, but doesn’t feel quite as inspired as the rest of the film. The homemade, improvisational side of McKay’s best comedy defies certain Hollywood coherencies, and whilst The Other Guys takes its plot conventions to appropriately ridiculous levels for most of its runtime, there are occasions on which it feels restricted by its big budget. Luckily, the gag rate is so consistent that the film is undoubtedly worth re-watching. If you’re in an amused crowd that’s laughing loudly enough, you won’t catch all the jokes first time around.