August 9, 2010

Review: Don't Call 'The Other Guys'



The fourth feature film collaboration by Will Ferrell and writing/producing partner Adam McKay (Anchorman, Step Brothers), The Other Guys, is really damn funny. Ferrell and McKay riff on the buddy cop genre and its cinematic troupes very well, orchestrating an utterly absurd, ridiculous comedy action movie.

The opening sequence is ridiculously delightful as Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson play Highsmith and Danson, a pair of over-the-top, stereotypical hero super cops. Mark Wahlberg and Ferrell play "The Other Guys", hapless desk cops looking for action. The New York chase sequence is beyond obscene in its satire of police car chase scenes, even going as far to include a double-decker bus, a slingshot effect, and some choice one-liners. This starts the police comedy with a breakneck kind of kinetic energy.

There is so much absurdity and nonsense humour piled up scene after scene and they mostly all play for laughs, but lack a cohesive energy going forward. However, the plot mechanics keep things going forward despite constant divergences. Often, characters slip into little comedy sketches within the larger framework of the story as McKay and company pad characters with odd back stories and quirks. The filmmaking is pretty impressive as McKay shows his visual style with carefully crafted action scenes and an inventive drunken bar sequence shot using still frames with a moving camera.

Wahlberg shines comedically as the straight man, never breaking as Ferrell's straight-laced, angry partner. The cast is diverse in its comedic styles. I enjoyed Ray Stevenson (Rome, Punisher: War Zone) as the deliciously evil bad guy. Michael Keaton riffs and delivers the laughs with the best of them as the police captain. The aforementioned Jackson and Johnson play great asshole cops out for glory. Eva Mendes is also particularly funny playing Ferrell's much too attractive doctor wife who sings, "Pimps Don't Cry".

While this is far from a tight film structurally and writing-wise, its plot is actually somewhat sophisticated. McKay and writer Chris Henchy satirize the financial crisis, Ponzi schemes, and the fallacy of the American economy. The closing credits relay some damning statistics about the financial industry over some clever animation set to the Rage Against the Machine cover of Bob Dylan's "Maggie's Farm". This kind of white collar crime is played against the normal drug trade or other kind of exciting crime portrayed on film. Mark Wahlberg exclaims numerous times for no reason that the plot must be drug or violent crime related.

Walking away, there is an abundance of clever ongoing jokes involving the Little River Band, references to hip-hop group TLC, homeless orgies, Ferrell's Toyota Prius, and pimps. The Other Guys is a lot of fun and packs in a lot of laughs as McKay exhausts the humour out of every scene in a way that pointedly picks apart the stupidity of the situations while delivering random jokes and sight gags.

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