The Other Guys
By Carl Kozlowski
August 6, 2010
In the ‘80s, one of the most popular genres of film was the buddy-cop film. Filled with wisecracking banter between two mismatched, big-city cops, along with fast-paced action and a plot that often barely mattered, films like 48 Hrs., Tango & Cash and even the first two Beverly Hills Cop films were fun ways to kill a couple hours at the movies.
But even these movies lost their appeal due to lackluster sequels like the third Beverly or Another 48 Hrs. (yep, Eddie Murphy was one of the kings of these flicks). And over the past decade, they largely seemed to disappear like some forgotten relic of the 20th century, doomed to be played back on dusty VHS tapes by middle-aged men.
Yet hope springs eternal for fans of this underrated genre: Will Ferrell [Editor's note: Click here to check out a Q&A with Ferrell] and Mark Wahlberg (see what I mean about mismatched teams?) are starring in the new spoof The Other Guys. The unlikely duo play two hapless desk-bound cops in the NYPD who suddenly get a shot at real action when the department’s best team of daredevils—played in cameos by Duane “The Rock” Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson—get killed on the job in hilariously freakish fashion.
Ferrell is a bookish, quiet accountant for the NYPD’s forensics department, while Wahlberg was a hothead street cop with a gun ... until he accidentally shot Yankee superstar Derek Jeter and was reassigned to partner with Ferrell. Wahlberg wants to get back on the streets as a heroic police figure, but he’s stuck solving petty crimes like building permit violations and is miserable. That doesn’t last for long, though, as these “other guys” race to the scene of a murder in the hopes of being the ones to crack it—despite the fact that their latest assignment is a seemingly boring look into corruption at the state lottery.
Their misplaced gusto has them competing against another team of mean-spirited boneheads for the chance to inherit the deceased hotshots’ position of glory. But when they stumble across a British billionaire (Steve Coogan) and arrest him on a code violation when he’s really hiding much bigger crimes, our hapless heroes are thrust into a spotlight they have no idea how to handle—with Ferrell especially displaying irrationally violent behavior and revealing a colorful history of busty women that leaves Wahlberg in slack-jawed astonishment.
As written by Adam McKay and Chris Henchy and directed by McKay, The Other Guys is more a ridiculous send-up of the buddy-cop genre than a revival of it. This is McKay's fourth film (following Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers), and all have featured Ferrell in the lead—so by now, they’ve built an amazing rapport that translates well into freewheeling comic anarchy when the need arises (such as when Ferrell tears up Coogan’s office in a fit of suddenly unbottled rage).
Yet Wahlberg is the bigger surprise here, revealing a deadpan comic timing that he hinted at in his supporting role in Date Night and is key to these proceedings. He’s especially funny in a couple of scenes spotlighting his immediate crush on Eva Mendes, the stunning Latina actress from Hitch who plays Ferrell’s wife.
Together, the duo have fun playing on multiple levels, with the best parts of the movie having nothing to do with action scenes. Rather, the standout moments are hilarious sequences that put a surreal spin on clichéd scenes, like Ferrell and Wahlberg having a way-too-rowdy night on the town, or Ferrell and Mendes relaying increasingly scandalous messages to each other through her doddering grandma.
The only real downside here is the plot, which deteriorates into even more pointlessness than the original films it’s seeking to satirize. As Guys tries to cobble together a coherent through-line for its endless parade of silly sequences, it relies on increasingly unfunny exposition and action scenes that are played with straight-up flash rather than funniness. For those who are easily offended, the film’s ample array of naughty humor—particularly in banter between our heroes—might be a red flag, but for most viewers, Ferrell once again milks his childlike spirit to full advantage and gets away with saying things that would stall nearly any other actor’s films.
Yet, while the film could easily be cut by 15 to 20 minutes, it is so packed with comedy that most viewers will be laughing too hard to notice. And that’s why The Other Guys should be your main choice this weekend.