The mixed up, muddled up, shook up world of The Other Guys | Wesley Fenlon | Not with a bang but a whimper.

The mixed up, muddled up, shook up world of The Other Guys


As a genre, buddy cop movies thrive on the cliche.  Oftentimes they are nothing but a series of recognizable cliches strung together, from the sassy love-hate relationship to the victorious shootout finale.  Sometimes they’re done well and you get Lethal Weapon.  Sometimes you get Rush Hour 3.  Adam McKay’s The Other Guys may share structure with those movies, but its tone is so utterly bizarre that between every bout of laughter, I was left feeling downright weird.

Ferrell and Wahlberg star as a number-cruncher and a screw-up who get no respect around the office, and hardly deserve to.  They’re pretty terrible police officers by movie standards.  When they happen to stumble upon a major case, they immediately screw it up, but keep doggedly pursuing it to prove they have what it takes.

The most interesting thing about The Other Guys is how McKay intentionally plays with the genre–the plot actually intentionally subverts a lot of predictable cop movie elements, and the action actually involves very little ass-kicking.  In one awesome White Stripes-driven scene, Mark Wahlberg wields two guns in a slow-motion shootout…and doesn’t actually seem to hit anyone.

The Other Guys does have a few problems, mainly driven by a minor identity crisis.  Yes, it’s a comedy first, but as the film draws closer to the end it begins to focus more and more on the nation’s financial crisis and the crimes perpetrated by mega corporations.  The ending credits even go so far as to provide facts and figures about the government banking bailouts and ludicrous salaries of CEOs.  It’s actually really disturbing, and retroactively paints earlier moments in a pretty dark light.  Michael Keaton’s turn as by-day police captain, by-night Bed Bath and beyond manager sounds funny and looks funny, but man is that a depressing image.

The Other Guys either needed a bit more comedy or a bit more serious cop drama–either way, the two made for a slightly uneven mix, which the writing capitalized on to make things even more awkward.  It’s hard to describe what makes the movie so downright bizarre–the writing and delivery are so off-kilter that they clash with the relatively realistic world Wahlberg and Ferrell bumble through.  It’s like this celluloid version of New York has its own reality–common for cinema, especially comedies or fantasies–where we don’t know quite how seriously we’re supposed to take things, which leads to quite a few “Oh man did that just happen” moments.

Even if the movie bounces kind of weirdly between farce and reality, the writing is spot-on most of the time and stays pretty damn funny throughout–though the film begins on such a high, it would be impossible to retain that momentum until the end.  You may finish the movie feeling as though you’re not quite sure what you just saw.  But for a genre movie, isn’t that the most pleasant of surprises?

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