Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Review : The Other Guys

Opening with an action sequence straight out of Bad Boys II (2003), in which celebrity cops Danson & Highsmith (brilliant cameos from Samuel L Jackson and Dwayne Johnson) take down some drug dealers along with half of New York City, Adam Mckay certainly begins his buddy-cop movie parody The Other Guys with a bang. When they leap to their death chasing jewellery thieves, there’s suddenly an opening for a pair of supercops ready to fill their shoes. Detective Terry Hoitz (Mark Whalberg) reckons he’s up to job, only trouble is he’s lumbered with forensic accounting specialist (“It’s like a really important part of the job”) Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) as his partner. The pair of them are the butt of all the precinct jokes. Gamble, desperate to stay behind his desk building cases against scaffolding violations, is saddled with a wooden gun after being tricked into discharging his real one in the office (“They convinced me with a really convincing argument!”), but Hoitz has other plans. Forcing his partner into the field at gunpoint, it’s not long before they’re building a case against financial embezzler Steve Coogan.

Michael Bay’s Bad Boys movies (particularly the second instalment) knowingly took the buddy cop movie to the edge of parody, and Hot Fuzz (2007) offered a ruralised riff on the excesses and conventions established by the likes of Bay and Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon (1987) films. Even Shane Black, writer of Lethal Weapon played his variation on the same theme, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) mostly for laughs, and whilst The Other Guys has some surprisingly efficient action set pieces (particularly the wrecking ball jewellery heist at the start), it’s comedy is rooted more in the intermittently successful banter between its’ leads.

As expected, Ferrell is by far the more proficient performer of the two when it comes to this, although he is a particular taste. Whalberg is hardly an actor with extended range (none at all if you’ve only seen The Happening, 2008) and tends to shout and whine his way through the film, perhaps with the exception of a dinner table scene where he’s introduced to Ferrell’s ridiculously hot wife, Eva Mendes. Ferrell’s abstract and bizarre riffing is given more space at the start of the picture, before we become too bogged down with the formulaic plot mechanics, and the extended backstory as to how he met his wife (“A girl at college thought she could make some money by going on dates. I just took a cut.”) had me in stitches.

There are some really good gags here, it’s just not the laugh-a-minute “funniest film of the year” that some are making it out to be (in my book that’s probably got to go to World’s Greatest Dad). A whispered fight scene at Jackson & Johnson’s wake is inspired, as is Ferrell’s proud editing work on some Steve Coogan news footage (“I used Adobe Premiere. I like to do a little weekend editing. I recently cut three minutes out of Goodfellas.”), and a couple of running gags involving homeless orgies in Ferrell’s Prius and police chief Michael Keaton’s inadvertent quoting of TLC lyrics had me chuckling, as did the pseudo-Michael Mann sultry saxophone score.

Mckay directs well, and although perhaps unable to sustain it’s momentum throughout, The Other Guys is more successful than most other recent Ferrell vehicles. It may be more dependent on silliness for it’s humour than Judd Apatow’s more character driven comedy, but sometimes there’s nothing wrong with silly at all.

The Other Guys - 2010 - USA - 107 mins - Dir : Adam McKay

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