We’ve had any number of buddy movies. We’v e had cop movies galore.
We’ve had endless cop-buddy movies.
And here’s another one, in the shape of The Other Guys.
Thank the gods, it manages to refresh the old formula with plenty of humour and a decent plot, making a pretty entertaining package.
The send-up tone is established from the start, when we are introduced to the two supercops who are the celebrities of this particular police department: they are just too good to be true, which means they are very much in the style of the kinds of supercop you expect from the movies, or at least mainstream American movies.
They are also ridiculously arrogant, self-satisfied and rude to their colleagues, who, when described in any departmental overview, are ranged from the supercops at the top to the ordinary but distinguished members of this force in the middle, and—somewhere near the bottom—‘the other guys”. These are the also-rans, the hopeless pair bringing up the rear of this department. That’s why nobody can remember their names—or doesn’t want to.
Their names are in fact Gamble and Hoitz, which makes them sound like a firm of particularly dodgy lawyers, the kind who might do a big BEE deal on behalf of a token black entrepreneur or two. You know it’s a gamble, and you hope they get Hoitz with their own petard.
But this Gamble and Hoitz are the underdogs or undercops, and you know too that given the shape of this kind of movie they will somehow claw their way from humiliation to some kind of redemption and/or heroism by the end.
Allen Gamble is played by Will Ferrell, who’s becoming something of a Chevy Chase for the 21st century; Terry Hoitz is played by Mark Wahlberg, who has come a long, long way since his days as a crotch grabbing rapper-cum-underwear model.
He’s now an actor to reckon with, though often his roles can be rather stern and glum (I’m thinking Four Brothers, The Departed, Max Payne —).
So it’s good to see him do some broad comedy and recapture some of the spark we saw in Boogie Nights, though this is of course a comparatively minor project. Gamble is amusingly pernickety and earnest, a desk jockey who would really rather not have to handle a gun at all, let alone rush out into the streets to check out a crime scene.
He is generally cheery about his denigrated status, but his attempts to be one of the boys are simply hilarious. Hoitz, by neat comparison, is a chunky oaf driven by resentment and rage, desperate to escape his desk and get out and shoot a few lawbreakers.
You can imagine how much he hates his partner Gamble. So the mismatched pair who will finally buddy up, after the obstacles and so forth have been overcome, are an excellently mismatched pair. Ferrell and Wahlberg play off each other with great skill and with sterling results in the laughs department.
Both are very funny; I’d say perhaps Wahlberg even more so than Ferrell, partly because he’s not so commonly seen in a comedy scenario, and because he’s not obviously being funny. But most of the humour develops out of the clashes between the two characters.
It helps, too, that the plot of The Other Guys moves along with alacrity, piling absurdity upon absurdity and filling itself out with useful criminal activity from a band of financial crooks.
This adds the thrillerish element any cop movie, except the most etiolated comedy, should have, and despite some gaps and fudges it works just fine.
The script by Chris Henchy and Adam McKay (also director) keeps the jokes coming, and for that you’ve got to cheer.
So many movies going as comedies are simply not funny at all: you’re lucky if they manage two real gags to put in the trailer. Like Pineapple Express, say, The Other Guys has the distinction of being pretty hilarious all the way through.