19 September 2010

Movie Review: The Other Guys



B+

The Other Guys
2010, 107mins, 12
Director: Adam McKay
Writer (s): Chris Henchy, Adam McKay
Cast includes: Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell, Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Steve Coogan
UK Release Date: 17th September 2010

Having concocted a trio of celebrated 21st century comedic smashes (“Anchorman”, Talladega Nights” and 2008’s “Step Brothers”,) one would at this juncture forgive Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay a misfire. The duo have been responsible for some of the goofiest and funniest creations in recent motion picture history, McKay finding a genius in Ferrell that many other directors have failed to exploit. “The Other Guys” showcases new storytelling ambitions from this loopy team, which accompanied by a stellar supporting cast allows for this beloved pair to deliver another blisteringly clever farce.

Following the demise of New York’s finest police partnership (hysterical turns from Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson) the city finds itself in need of new heroes. Eager to fill the void is disgraced cop Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), but his contented desk jockey partner Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) isn’t as anxious to leave the office setting. By chance the pair is forced into a case involving shady English businessman David Ershon (Steve Coogan), and as their investigation unravels they discover a web of financial deceit. However Ershon has reluctantly been provided with a bunch of heavies to ensure that Hoitz and Gamble’s probing doesn’t go too far, and so that those above the British moneyman can remain beyond the law.

All of the previous McKay/Ferrell collaborations weren’t too interested in narrative cohesion or storytelling fluidity but “The Other Guys” cooks up an actual plotline for the buddy cop shenanigans to play out in. The film is clearly lampooning the action genre, but screenwriters McKay and Chris Henchy (who penned last year’s Ferrell flop “Land of the Lost”) construct a story chocked with corporate greed and even twisty plot developments; by the conclusion of “The Other Guys” the movie has almost morphed into what it initially sets out to mock. The plotting and payoffs are pretty perfunctory, but I give kudos to McKay for stepping so firmly out of his normal comfort zone. Of course the film also finds a welcome tone of ridiculousness, spoofing the usual facets of modern action pictures with confidence and comedic precision. “The Other Guys” is stacked with improvisational gold (Lion vs. Tuna), a wonderful sense of silliness and some absolutely cracking satire.

The performances are wonderful, with the Wahlberg and Ferrell team-up revealing a match made in comedy heaven. Ferrell’s normal persona is curbed here, the actor only touching his usual depths of insanity during a giggle inducing flashback pertaining to his character’s dark days at college. Instead most of the loudmouthed momentum comes from Wahlberg, parodying his own intense screen presence with a healthy dose of fun and a terrific line in verbal abuse. The relationship is antagonistic (albeit as the story develops the pair grudgingly comes to respect each other) and that suits the material perfectly, allowing the screenplay to create some brilliantly heated comic exchanges and creating a fertile plateau for Ferrell to use his commendable improv skills. The pair has a great chemistry, and the supporting figures surrounding them empower the film further. Eva Mendes showcases an unusually shrewd sense of comic timing as Ferrell’s unfeasibly foxy wife, whilst Michael Keaton puts in an odd but extremely amusing turn as the chief of police. The only actor who the film doesn’t utilize to full potential is Steve Coogan, but when given the chance (especially during a line of riotous bribery gags) he still makes his mark.

The action beats “The Other Guys” offers are surprisingly slick and entertaining, cheesy sure, but efficiently photographed and executed none the less. By the conclusion of its story the film feels a little unfocused, with the final showdown sequence lacking the panache or even boisterous fun that the rest of the picture provides so comfortably. From a technical viewpoint it’s easily the best work Adam McKay has done as a director, even if it never quite meets the comedic heights of “Anchorman” (the first and still best Ferrell/McKay film around). “The Other Guys” is a rewardingly absurd comic outing, spurred on by sharp buffoonery and an awesome selection of both lead and supporting performances. That’s a hard cocktail not to love.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2010

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