Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg make a great team in The Other Guys
There have been dozens of buddy cop movies. Most are about an odd couple of renegades who don’t do anything by the books but end up solving the case with explosions and catch-phrases. The Other Guys follows this formula while taking the piss out of it at the same time.
The film opens with an over-the-top action sequence featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson as cliche-spouting action heroes. They’ll do anything to catch the perps, including crashing a car through a tour bus. They do millions of dollars worth of property damage to make an arrest for even the most minor offense. This “shoot first ask questions later” behavior is exactly what you see in most cop movies, which makes it very funny when the two meet their demise by jumping off a tall building as if they’ll make a typically impossible action movie landing.
Cut to the other guys: Will Ferrell as Detective Allen Gamble and Mark Wahlberg as Detective Terry Hoitz. They’re not glamorous cops, they’re the guys who sit behind a desk doing the paperwork the glamorous cops deem beneath them. Gamble is a straight-laced accountant-type who is content to be a whipping boy around the station and Hoitz is a wannabe tough guy who’s famous for accidentally shooting Derek Jeter.
In the course of their boring jobs, Gamble and Hoitz stumble upon a multi-billion dollar financial scheme involving crooked investor, David Ershon, played by Steve Coogan. They’re repeatedly told to drop the case by their TLC-quoting captain, Michael Keaton, universally mocked by two cooler detectives, Rob Riggle and comedy heir Damon Wayans Jr. and repeatedly robbed of their shoes by a team of stealth international bad guys.
The film caters to both those who like gross-out gags or physical humor as well as those quick enough to catch some of the more subtle jokes. At the funeral for the two deceased supercops, Hoitz has whisper fight with another detective which involves quiet punching and hushed cheers from the crowd of observers. The fight itself is funny to fans of physical humor but the fact that they continue whispering while wrestling on the ground is a joke that has to incubate a little more before before that broad audience catches it. Some of Wahlberg’s witty insults are highly quotable a la Brian Fantana in Anchorman and highlight the division in the audience between people who get it right away and people who need a few more seconds to let it resonate.
The Other Guys does feature car chases and explosions, but it acknowledges the ridiculousness of those devices. One of the funnier examples is when a giant fireball flings the two detectives onto the pavement of a parking lot. They roll around on the ground in pain questioning how people in movies can just walk away from massive explosions. They even cite the video game aspect of high-speed cinema car chases by drawing a parallel to Grand Theft Auto.
Unlike Cop Out, which set out to make a parody of a cop movie but stumbled into they very thing they were mocking, The Other Guys succeeds in being both stupid and clever. It doesn’t meet the gold standard of director Adam McKay‘s classic, Anchorman, but it’s certainly holds its own in the cop comedy genre.