One might have hoped that The Other Guys would be the antidote for the pretty poor (though largely successful) Kevin Smith movie, Cop Out, since both films are intentional pisstakes on the 80s buddy cop genre. If you had, you’d be sorely disappointed. Whilst a lot funnier than Smith’s most mainstream film, The Other Guys is very flawed indeed.
We start out with an introduction to the two coolest cops in the precinct, lovingly played by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson. These are the violent, wisecracking guys that would have populated our 80s action movie, though here they crank it up to 11. The ‘other guys’, however – as explained to us by Ice-T’s strangely sincere voice over – are not quite so cool. Will Ferrell plays Allen Gamble, a detective who specialises in accounting fraud, whilst Mark Wahlberg plays Terry Hoitz, the cop who has recently inadvertently become the most hated cop in New York City. Whilst Allen is quite content with his lot, Terry wishes that they could rise above their station to become the coolest cops in the precinct. It’s a mildly postmodern and enjoyably goofy premise, and with the talents of all involved, this flick should have almost made itself. Clearly, it didn’t.
First of all, this is possibly the worst edited film I have ever seen in my life. Take the bombastic opening scene for starters. Even ignoring the fact it’s been decided that the opening titles should accompany a high voltage action scene, this is a consistently disorienting example of poor filmmaking. No consideration has been taken in regards to where the audience is looking in any one frame, nor has any care been taken to ensure the action doesn’t cross the 180 line. Basically, it’s a hodgepodge of shots that don’t match, seemingly created by people who have no idea of how to stage action. Or make movies.
But I was willing to overlook this, considering that The Other Guys is supposed to be a comedy. I figured that maybe the people making the film were more at home with the normal restrictions of a studio than on location and in the digital realm. Wrong again. The pacing consistently cuts around the humour in the worst way possible. In fact, there are only a handful of scenes that are as funny as they should be, as the talents of Ferrell and Wahlberg et al are finally allowed to flourish.
The direction is poor at best. Adam McKay (who also did Ferrell vehicles Step Brothers and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) seems to have no idea what to do with Mark Wahlberg, who regularly shouts his lines for no reason whatsoever. Maybe it was in an attempt to get him away from his regular softly spoken delivery, but this alternative simply doesn’t work. The other performances – even Ferrell’s – seem wildly inconsistent from shot to shot, almost as if they only ever filmed one line at a time then tried to patch them together in postproduction.
Despite The Other Guys being a supreme example of the complete failure of both the technical and methodological aspects of filmmaking, it does manage to amuse. This has to do with the strength of the script. The central concept, not to mention the oddball crime busting plot, certainly brushes with greatness inadvertently every now and again, even if the filmmakers were seemingly trying their hardest to disguise it.
The end result is a comedy featuring irregularly scattered laughs entwined in a central plot that actually gets rather confusing. Ferrell is hilarious, as are supporting turns from Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes and Steve Coogan, but it isn’t enough to save this mess. Even the end credit graphics, detailing figures from the global financial crisis and subsequent bailout, couldn’t redeem The Other Guys. Whilst it’s great to see such subversive information sneak into a mainstream Hollywood comedy, it simply seemed out of place.Rating: