The Other Guys (2010)

The other guys in The Other Guys are ordinary, workaday cops, as opposed to the kind of cops movies are made about. The movie star style cops are represented too -- Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson poke fun at themselves, and their action hero personas as a couple of greatly admired, but not terribly useful NYPD supercops. They break a lot of windows and cause a great deal of vehicular mayhem. The other guys are Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell), a milquetoast forensic accountant who gets very worked up about building permits, and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), a good but extremely unlucky detective who achieved notoriety by shooting a beloved New York athlete. His penance is to be partnered with Gamble. They are a classic odd couple -- Hoitz is crabby and has a short fuse; Gamble's a slow-burner. Hoitz is an able fighter and an excellent marksman; Gamble is a large, lumbering clod who can barely shoot a gun, and would prefer to sit behind a desk pushing papers all day.

Gamble and Hoitz stumble upon a hot case involving a crooked equity fund manager (Steve Coogan). Hoitz sees a chance to be a hero and redeem himself, and Gamble gets to put his accounting skills to good use, but they find their investigation thwarted at every turn by politicians, ruthless corporate sharks, and a weary, hapless police chief (Michael Keaton) who doesn't want anyone in his precinct making waves. The plot doesn't really matter, however. (Although in the closing credits, it does: Rage Against the Machine performs "Maggie's Farm" while colorful graphics detail the outrageous perfidy of Ponzi-scheming Wall Street swindlers.) The story merely creates assorted occasions for a lot of funny riffing and bickering. The latter is particularly inspired in The Other Guys, which features long, meandering, nonsensical contretemps involving the relative badassery of tunas and lions, among other things.

Director Adam McKay (who cowrote the script with Chris Henchy), has collaborated before with Ferrell (on Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Step Brothers), but Gamble is an uncommon character: he's gullible, sincere, timid, officious, irresistible to beautiful women -- including his hot wife (Eva Mendes) -- but apparently immune to their charms, he prefers easy listening music. He's also cheery and smart. He can't understand why Hoitz hates him, and Hoitz can't understand why women throw themselves at him (the movie offers no explanation). I've never found Ferrell especially hilarious, but he's really funny as Gamble, and he doesn't play him as a mere caricature, but digs beneath the character's skin to find a kind of suppressed belligerence. Wahlberg has turned out to be a stealth comedian (and a pretty good dramatic actor too). Ferrell and Wahlberg, with their high voices, are like a couple of bellicose roosters together, which adds to the overall comic effect. They both simultaneously play the straight man and the joker, the comic and the foil. The screenplay provides them with plenty of goofy, raucously funny material.

The Other Guys spoofs the conventions of supercop/buddy cop movies, but it throws in plenty of car chases, explosions, and shootouts just the same. It tries to walk the fine line between making fun of witless guns-a-blazin' action movies, and actually being one. It succeeds, not because it does anything especially great or innovative plot-wise or action-wise, but because it is completely committed to its snappy, waggish nuttiness, prolix illogicality and extended incongruity.