These days I find myself drawn to Mark Wahlberg films. I’m not entirely sure when it happened but Marky Mark became one of the more reliable actors around. So much so that I find myself desperate to watch Pain and Gain and 2 Guns every time I see the trailers. I may prefer the rap career of Hollywood favourite Will Smith but there can be no denying that Marky’s talent lies outside of hip-hop. He’s a talented actor and, most surprisingly, an incredibly funny performer. His role in Ted was a revelation so I started my mission to work my way through his filmography. If I’m not careful he’ll become one of my favourite actors and once that happens I will certainly have to start re-evaluating my life.
The Other Guys is another spoof of the classic buddy-cop film with Wahlberg and Will Ferrell taking their position as the title characters. Allen Gamble (Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg ) are police officers who find themselves overlooked next to a pair of superstar detectives, played wonderfully by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson. They find themselves paired up thanks to their past professional mistakes and are stuck filling out their co-workers paperwork. That is until they accidentally stumble into the middle of a huge financial scam, with Steve Coogan’s corrupt businessman at its centre.
As with every movie of this type, The Other Guys struggles to find a balance between comedy and the cinematic tropes of the genre at its foundation. Just how much adrenaline-pumping explosions and shoot-outs do you need in a comedy crime caper? Unfortunately, The Other Guys doesn’t quite get it right. McKay and cinematographer Oliver Wood (what happened to the Quidditch career?) push the action sequences as hard as they can and make sure everything is as in-your-face as possible. The focus should be the characters but there is always too much of a focus on the genre that everything just gets muddled and feels too big for the film-makers.
Writers Adam McKay and Chris Henchy stretch the already thin narrative just a little too far and they never quite manage to control it. There is too much confusion surrounding the flimsy stock market scam and subsequent armed robbery and kidnap that the main plot line just becomes a runaway train that blasts its way through some of the better moments. Thankfully The Other Guys has a saving grace in its central relationship and there are just enough stand-out moments throughout. These snippets occur when the bizarre characters get a chance to bounce off one another and distract us from the derivative plot.
For one thing Ferrell and Wahlberg are a comedy super team here. Whilst Ferrell is still as funny as we have come to expect, it is refreshing to see him working the more straight-man role (albeit with a dark secret past hidden just below the surface). This also means he has some room to move within his performance. Rather than playing a character at 100% coarse, The Other Guys allows him to mix things up a little. He works well against Wahlberg’s brash and hot-headed Terry who is living with the frustration of being saddled with an inept partner and dull duties. He is full of anger and is the perfect foil to Ferrell’s reserved Allen. As with similar films the humour is primarily based upon their conflicting way of life and their overall chemistry.
The pair is aided along their way by a wonderful and hilarious supporting cast. Michael Keaton is a comic highpoint here as the outrageous police captain who can be relied upon to provide a TLC quotation for every occasion. Likewise, Eva Mendes once again proves to be a funny performer and completely throws herself into some of the more ridiculous moments. However, it is the brief appearance of Jackson and Johnson in the opening scenes that really stood out for me. These moments are an outrageous but excellent parody of every over-the-top police action films. Whilst on screen for only a brief time, they are the stars of some of the funniest moments.
The most disappointing star on show is Steve Coogan, the man responsible for one of the all-time greatest comic characters, Alan Partridge. Suffering from being involved in such a forgettable and insignificant plot-line, Coogan just gets lost in the chaos. He has a few throw-away lines that might garner a titter but it just feels like he’s simply along for the ride.
A feeling that will only grow as the film progresses towards its finale. There are moments of true hilarity but this has the overall feel of one long sketch show broken up by a farcical crime plot. The funniest moments are the random tangents and the banter between our leading pair. The actual narrative is just consequential. Still, The Other Guys is a film that is primarily concerned with making its audience laugh and there is no denying that it does that. If only it had been less interested in the other side of the coin and veered off the Michael Bay path of film-making.