The Other Guys

A ballet of emotions

The Other Guys is a buddy cop/double act comedy featuring an unlikely cast of household names.  If you’ve seen Martin Scorsese’s 2006 crime masterpiece, The Departed, the obvious written-for-certain-actors roles of The Other Guys may be all too apparent (in a good way, however).  Mark Wahlberg plays Terry Hoitz, an obvious reference to his Departed character Sean Dignam.  Wahlberg spends the majority of the film yelling, while Will Ferrell gets top billing as Allen Gamble, a nondescript police desk-jockey who idolizes the department’s supercops, Danson and Highsmith (Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson).  Rounding out the main cast is Michael Keaton, Jackson’s co-star from Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, this time playing Hoitz/Gamble’s police captain who moonlights as a manager at Bed, Bath and Beyond and inadvertently quotes TLC songs at least four times.

The story follows Hoitz and Gamble, “the other guys” (as labeled by narrator Ice-T) attempting to become the department’s star detectives after Danson and Highsmith inexplicably leap to their deaths.  The man they’re after, David Ershon (Steve Coogan) is a multi-billionaire attempting to cover his company’s losses.  A very interesting end-credits sequence features statistics about AIG, Enron and other companies, as well as depressing numbers about CEO money and average employee treatment.

The film generates some good laughs, and the now-famous improvisation of Will Ferrell takes center stage in a few good scenes, particularly when Hoitz attempts to intimidate Gamble.  The film’s biggest gut-buster occurs when Hoitz decides to play “good cop , bad cop” with Ershon, but Gamble mishears it as “bad cop, bad cop” and throws a screaming fit.  Wahlberg’s character is a great satire of violent police heroes, in one scene shouting “Colombian drug lords!” before single-handedly defeating a group of masked bikers.  Ferrell asks, “How did you know that?”

There are a few good cameos, the best of which is Derek Jeter (who plays himself).  I won’t spoil his reason for being in the film.

But now for my Statler and Waldorf section.  This film centers around pairs of characters.  Hoitz/Gamble, Gamble/his wife (Eva Mendes), Danson/Highsmith, as well as a pair of rival cops (Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans, Jr.), Gamble’s ex-wife and new husband, the bad guy (Ray Stevenson) and his shockingly attractive femme fatale sidekick, and so on.  There are a few too many.  My biggest issue with this: why get The Rock and Sam Jackson to play the supercops only to have them die and be replaced by two characters who are trying to do the exact same thing?  The situation is presented as humorous, but it’s actually a bit of a downer and the film takes awhile to recover.  It’s also a shame because Jackson and Johnson are given very little time to act together, and they’re an inspired duo.  Additionally, there are occasional awkward scenes in which director/writer Adam Mckay, who is accustomed to Ferrell’s improv gems, clearly wrote no dialogue, relying on Ferrell’s humor to save the film.  It doesn’t always strike gold, particularly in his scenes with Eva Mendes.  There are also a few too many jokes at the expense of women, which is par for the course in a movie about cops, but three of them within a minute or two is overkill.

Much like the year’s earlier buddy cop film, Cop-Out, Tracy Morgan appears.  This time, refreshingly, he doesn’t say anything.  Funnily enough, the film is narrated by an uncredited Ice-T who wrote the controversial song “Cop Killer,” and now plays a cop on Law & Order: SVU.  Sorry, no punchline for this one.

The Other Guys (2010); written by Chris Henchy and Adam Mckay; directed by Adam Mckay; starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Steve Coogan and Michael Keaton.