MOVIE REVIEW: The Other Guys
THE OTHER GUYS-- 4 STARS
For years, the "buddy cop movie" has been a popular subgenre of crime films. Hollywood pumps them out regularly, most recently with the awful Cop Out from writer-director Kevin Smith. The examples are endless and the mold shows up in every shape and form. The great buddy cop movies have ranged from the comedic (the Rush Hour series, 48 Hours), the action-packed (the Lethal Weapon series and Hong Kong's Hard Boiled), the dramatic (Se7en, In the Heat of the Night), and all the way to the otherworldly (the Men in Black series) and historic (Sherlock Holmes).
Put any two flatfoots, barneys, bobbies, gumshoes, or pigs together and you've got yourself a movie. Most of the time, the more opposite they are, the better. However, it's that pairing of two actors that either make or break the success of every buddy cop movie. The "case" doesn't matter. The action, suspense, or comedy doesn't matter. If the two actors and characters don't have the chemistry to mesh or play off each other well, the movie fails. Take every buddy cop film example listed above and you will find perfect, unexpected matches.
To my utter amazement, The Other Guys, released August 6th, has that necessary chemistry to make a successful buddy cop film, thanks to Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Ferrell plays Detective Allen Gamble, a former "forensic accountant" wuss who drives a Toyota Prius, never leaves his desk, never fires his sidearm, and never enters the field. Wahlberg plays his hot-headed partner Terry Hoitz who has the chops and all the balls to be a big-time cop, but a embarrassing on-the-job accident has him stuck on the lowly detective depth chart with Gamble and the unfortunate nickname of "The Yankee Clipper."
Their department, led by Capt. Gene Mauch (a resurrected Michael Keaton), are all "the other guys" when compared to headlining city supercops Highsmith and Danson (the hilariously over-the-top duo of Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, who could star in a buddy cop movie of their own). Hoitz, but not so much Gamble, wants his shot at being that kind of cop, but so do their department rivals Martin (Rob Riggle from Step Brothers and The Hangover) and Fosse (Damon Wayans, Jr., yes Junior!).
To tell you anymore about the plot of The Other Guys would ruin more gags and surprises than Inception has dreams and twists. There's literally that much going on! The movie breezes effortlessly from one hilarious scenario to another, yet effectively works as a real detective story. Twists and hints of our heroes' backstories are framed by a central case our Odd Couple cops are working on involving an in-over-his-head billionaire (Steve Coogan of Tropic Thunder trying to swindle profits from his nasty investors.
While the detective story in The Other Guys works, it's that chemistry between Ferrell and Wahlberg that makes the movie. We all knew from The Departed that Mark Wahlberg could play a great, mouthy, and hardnose cop, but who knew a restrained and nerdy Will Ferrell could be funnier than loud, over-the-top lothario Will Ferrell? Apparently, audiences do, because Ferrell sinks (Kicking and Screaming, Semi-Pro, and Land of the Lost) when he doesn't have an ensemble (Old School and Anchorman) around him and tries put a movie on his shoulders. The Other Guys, even beyond the successful Step Brothers, is his best work since Anchorman.
Ferrell and Wahlberg's interactions, conversations, and arguments are so fast, scathing, hilarious, and rich, you wonder what's scripted and what's ad-libbed. Director Adam McKay (in his fourth collaboration with Ferrell) could have made an entire two-hour movie of just watching these two sit at their desks busting each other's balls and it would have been hilarious. When you throw in Eva Mendes as a smoking hot wife, car chases, guns, explosions, random TLC lyric references, and a sassy 80's-esque, saxophone-splashed score from Jon Brion, you've got one hell of a buddy cop movie, and one meant to be a spoof no less! There are a hundred lessons possible that I could write from goofy character mistakes (traffic rules, business decisions, profanity, etc.) in this spoof movie, but here are the highlights:
LESSON #1: THE PARTNER'S CODE-- We've seen this before, but it never tires or fails to watch two cops, especially two opposite cops, bond over the "watch my back/back your partner's play" code of police officers and partners. It's their version of being a "wingman." That mantra serves them well on and off the job, and here, in The Other Guys, in funny ways.
LESSON #2: THOU SHALL NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR'S WIFE-- But, come on, it's Eva Mendes! Guys are going to stare and look if that's your wife. The old Harry Belafonte song says it best: "If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life/Never make a pretty woman your wife/So from my personal point of view/Get an ugly girl to marry you."
LESSON #3: OPPOSITES ATTRACT ON A PLATONIC LEVEL TOO-- Sure, Hoitz and Gamble couldn't be any more opposite in interests and have far different goals as cops, but they make a great team when they give each other a chance to step back and understand what makes the other guy tick or where they are coming from. This is a great lesson for any workplace.
LESSON #4: DON'T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER-- Without giving away details, it doesn't take a genius to sense that there's more going on under Gamble's nerdy exterior and Hoitz's angry shell. On the inside, they have more middle ground and talents than each other realize, making this old saying ring true here.
LESSON #5: EMBRACE YOUR PAST BECAUSE IT MADE YOU WHO YOU ARE TODAY-- Much like how the last lesson alluded to the inside makeup of our heroes, they also have trouble embracing their past. Not to get all Rascal Flatts with a little harmony of "god bless the broken road that led me straight to you," but it's true that one should embrace their past instead of burying it deep inside. There's nothing wrong with improving oneself in the present from past mistakes, but don't forget the turns in the path that got you there.