A film review by Craig J. Koban August 17, 2010
THE OTHER GUYS
2010, PG-13, 108 mins.
2010, PG-13, 108 mins.
Will Ferrell: Gamble / Mark Wahlberg: Hoitz / Eva Mendes: Sheila / Michael Keaton: Capt. Mauch / Steve Coogan: David Ershon / Ray Stevenson: Wesley
Directed by Adam McKay / Written by McKay and Chris Henchy
There is a small
moment in the new action comedy THE OTHER GUYS that does a virtuoso job of
underscoring the indescribably absurd comic tenacity and bizarro
brilliance of Will Ferrell.
It’s a small,
but uproarious scene where Ferrell’s police accountant cop Allen Gamble
has his short-tempered, hotheaded, and career minded partner, Terry Hoitz
(Mark Wahlberg) over for dinner. Allen
is married to an absolute goddess of a female: she is Dr. Sheila Gamble
(the incredibly easy on the eyes Eva Mendes) and when she appears in her
wonderfully form fitting dress before Terry, he’s in a state of absolute
stunned incredulity. He
can’t bring himself to believe that the book-wormy and meek mannered
Allen could possibly have such an unattainably gorgeous wife.
When the three of them gather at the dinner table Allen goes out of his
way to apologize for his wife’s “inappropriate” appearance;
he describes her look – directly in front of her – to be that of a
Did you see?
That’s the Ferrellian touch.
He can take the most rudimentary of movie scenes – like the
dinner conversation – and use his improvisational wit and logic-skewed
indifference to generate high hilarity with the most modest of lines. Mendes' doctor/wife is anything but a “hobo,” but
Ferrell’s character – showing a genuine lack of common sense and a
clueless, man-child sense of ignorance – seems completely dense to his
wife’s uber hotness. He’s
almost innocently imbecilic. Remember in ANCHORMAN
when Ferrell’s bigoted 70’s newsman called a female colleague a
“pirate hooker” that belonged on “whore island”?
Remember Ferrell’s aging, washed-up basketball player in SEMI-PRO
telling a capacity crowd to use their children as human shields to
defend themselves against a rampaging grizzly bear because bears love
“tasty, young, and tender meat”?
Remember Ferrell’s bumble-brained, red-necked racecar driver in TALLADEGA
NIGHTS that stabbed a knife into his thigh to prove to his buddies
that he was paralyzed…even when he wasn’t?
Ferrellian touch. Mix a
dose of self-humiliation with a dash of capricious sprit and combine that further with
a daring, go-for-broke willingness to say or do anything for a laugh and
you get the idea. Some comedians know their limits, but Ferrell is self-aware
and guileless enough to know that he has no limits.
It’s his complete lack of self-censorship that often makes him a
THE OTHER GUYS
proudly and jubilantly utilizes Ferrell’s manic energy and unhinged comic sensibilities to great effect.
The film is a very effective re-teaming of the actor with
co-writer/director Adam McKay, a former SNL writer during Ferrell’s
tenure there and the writer/director of two of Ferrell’s most hilarious
screen comedies, ANCHORMAN and TALLADEGA NIGHTS. Although THE OTHER GUYS does not have the same laugh-a-minute
consistency of those two films and seems to run out of
comedic gas with an abortively long-winded running time, this is still a
rousingly boisterous and gigantically silly creation that mixes
off-the-wall comic ludicrousness with the trappings of a
high-octane buddy-cop action picture.
It’s a raucous and side-splittingly funny farce and a bullet and
explosion happy thriller that’s done with just the right winks at the
audience and the genres it’s lampooning.
It’s the very type of film that Kevin Smith’s lamentably awful
COP OUT wanted to be earlier this year.
THE OTHER GUYS
opens by introducing us to the real heroes of the film up front: They are
NYPD daredevil cops Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson, cutting loose with a
groovy, trash-talking, and frenzied vigor) and Danson (Dwayne Johnson,
showing why he is a rare commodity of muscle bound actor for being able to
merge raw physicality with a goofy charm).
These dudes are bad mo-fos: In a hysterical opening sequence they
single handedly cause millions of dollars of property damage to one New
York street…just to bust a criminal on a miniscule drug possession
the media and their fellow boys in blue - and especially Ferrell’s number crunching, desk bound
cop - idolize them despite their questionable
Of course, Allen
wants nothing to do with being in the field: He would just rather be in
front of his computer from 9 to 5, but his partner Terry is growing so
monstrously frustrated by being cooped up in the office all day that all
he can think of is getting back on the street beat.
Now, why is a fairly tough minded and rugged officer like Terry
stuck at the precinct? He became disciplined after a very nasty altercation with Derek
Jeter (yes, that one) that involved a gun, a bullet entering the Major
League slugger, and a nickname of “The Yankee Clipper” that haunts
Terry. However, the duos’
lives are changed forever when they
begin to investigate a big-time fraud case that may or may not involve a business tycoon, David Ershon (Steve Coogan), but problems surface
when it's revealed that Ershon has cozy ties with their boss, Captain Gene
Mauch (Michael Keaton). Yet,
things predictably escalate to the point where it appears that these two
supercop-wannabes may be the only two that will be able to bust the case
The pairing of
Ferrell and Wahlberg here seems both odd and inspired.
Ferrell can bring the funny with the best of them, whereas Wahlberg
has been very funny – both intentionally and non-intentionally – in
films before. I need not
embellish Ferrell’s easy penchant for high merriment, but Wahlberg makes
an effective foil to Allen’s mild, white collared, and dweeby simpleton.
Wahlberg’s thankless task in the film involves him
playing straight man to all of Ferrell’s unmentionable ludicrousness.
There is comedy in reactions, and watching Wahlberg drift between
dopey eyed perplexity and fire and brimstone exasperation are just as
funny as seeing Ferrell make a fool of himself.
Oftentimes, the expectation of seeing Terry
fly off the deep end is funny enough.
The other actors
here are also very amusing. "The
Rock" and Samuel L. Jackson are riotously droll satirizing their own images
as badass and dirty-mouthed action gods (they also occupy the single most
macabre and funny moment in a film in recent memory that cues their early
exit from the story; you’ll know when you see it).
And how utterly cool is it to see Michael Keaton launch himself
back into playing a deliciously sly and wacky comic creation again?
He portrays an aging, exhausted, and somewhat ineffectual police
captain that, among other things, inadvertently quotes TLC song lyrics
without knowing it and spends his wee evening hours working as a manager
at Bed Bath and Beyond so he can put his bisexual son through college.
Keaton has not been this unpredictable whimsical and exuberant in
Of course, we also
get all of the traditional accoutrements of the action genre too, like gun
battles and shootouts, explosions, car chases, and expletive laced banter,
but the film’s real objective is to make us laugh first and excite and thrill
us a distant second. The fast
and furious laughs come as a result of a dizzying and divergent array of
madcap scenes. There is a brawl between police officers at a funeral that is
all done with hushes and whispers that’s kind of brilliant as well as a
running gag involving Allen’s choice of cop cars – a bright, candy
colored Pyris – which, at one point, gets covered in so much cocaine
that one character comments that it looks as if Scarface sneezed on it (there
are also lots of chuckles regarding Allen’s use of Little River Band as
adrenaline pumping music on the job).
Then there is a truly transcendentally funny moment when Allen
mistakes Terry’s instructions to pull the ol’ good cop, bad cop
routine on a suspect (“I thought you meant bad cop, bad cop?” Allen
feebly explains after the fact). Perhaps the most gut-busting moment comes early in the film
when Terry explains that if he were a lion swimming out to sea and Allen
were a tuna then he would gobble him up and kill him.
Allen systematically and logically explains why a lion would be no
match for a squadron of tuna, much to Allen’s blood boiling frustration.
THE OTHER GUYS is
not a faultless comedy: I
think that Steve Coogan – a terrifically and crazily unhinged comic
actor in his own right (HAMLET 2) - is
underutilized here in a meager role.
The film is also way, way too long and contains an underlining
premise involving a corporate scam/crime that, to be fair, never really is
developed in a clear or delineated manner.
THE OTHER GUYS, especially late in the game, becomes so transfixed
in its tale of white collar greed and malfeasance that it almost derails
the first two-thirds of enthusiastic lunacy (by the time the story
revisits its criminal subplot, I nearly forgot that it existed in the film
in the first place). No
matter, because THE OTHER GUYS is still immensely goofy and happily
delirious fun with Will Ferrell proudly and commandingly at the helm of
all of its preposterousness. It’s
often impossible not to laugh at this guy. Need proof? Look at one sequence where Allen and Terry narrowly escape a
mass explosion. As they
writhe around in agony on the ground Allen cries, “I definitely need an
MRI! There’s no way I
don’t have soft-tissue damage right now.”
See? That’s the Ferrellian touch.