The Other Guys (2010)

buddy comedy, comedy, cops, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Stevenson, review, Steve Coogan, Will Ferrell

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-worker’s 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 plotline 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 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.

The Three Musketeers (2011)

Christoph Waltz, fucking awful, Matthew MacFadyen, Ray Stevenson, review, swords, terrible
I must admit I didn’t have very high hopes for this latest adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ novel as any attempt since the 1973 version, directed by Richard Lester, has never quite felt right. Even the one starring Kiefer Sutherland and my love for him has allowed me to put up with a lot of shit over the years. Although, it does star Rome star Ray Stevenson who I appreciate almost as much.

The latest version from Resident Evil’s Paul W.S. Anderson is perhaps the closest you can get to a modernised version of a narrative set during the reign of Louis XIII. For the most part, the film stays close to Dumas’ original: the young D’Artagnan leaves for Paris and is introduced to musketeers Athos, Porthos and Aramis. The four then find themselves mixed up in a political plot in which they must stop the villainous Cardinal Richelieu overthrowing the young King.

Although the writers obviously felt that a modern audience would not be able to accept this simple tale of four men fighting for King and country so we find ourselves in a steam punk version of seventeenth century France complete with airships armed with machine guns and flame-throwers. The three main characters become more than the traditional sword wielding defenders of the French Monarchy and find themselves becoming examples of a more modern action hero.

Anderson has certainly attempted to bring some fun into this well known story but it ends up being a ridiculous and mind boggling experience. The film tries not to take itself too seriously and the opening sequence is a perfect example of this. With images lifted straight from Batman, The Matrix and video games, such as Assassins Creed, the three musketeers are introduced in an blur of romance, violence and booby traps. This part of the film is actually well played out, if you ignore the awful slow-motion fight sequences (something that has not only become one of the most annoying of Hollywood clichés but also something that is pulled off much more successfully elsewhere) and the odd faces Matthew MacFadyen pulls as he wields his rapier. Anderson certainly embraces the swashbuckling side of the narrative.

However, there is something about the film that prevents this attempted light-hearted attitude ever fully taking over. Unfortunately for Anderson, there is a lot more to Dumas’ tale than non-stop action. It relies on political treachery, heart ache and double-crossing spies. It is these elements that gives Anderson most of his problems. For the most part he attempts to push them into the background but when it is necessary his attempts are fairly pathetic.

The main offender is the failed romance between MacFayden’s, Athos, and Milla Jovovich’s, Milady. It is something that we are supposed to believe continually haunts Athos but it is barely given any prominence. After the opening scene it is only briefly referred to again in a few conversations. The romance was never believable meaning its destruction is utterly pointless.

To argue that the film’s major positive is that is does not take itself too seriously is both a flimsy argument and, more importantly, a fallacy. A film that is at its heart a political drama cannot completely commit itself to this sense of fun. Anderson seems to be completely perplexed by the actual story he tries to introduce. The plot to overthrow the King is rushed and certainly secondary to the visual aspects.

The film falls down dramatically from it’s poor script and terrible narrative structure. The script is littered with the expected Hollywood clichés as well as more than enough plot holes and unanswered questions. At it’s best the script is laughable and at it’s worst is painful. Take for example any of Athos’ speeches about being a damaged individual driven to drink and despair or the excruciating scene played out between D’Artagnan and his father before he leaves for Paris.

Although, despite the excruciating language, the aspect of the film that annoyed me the most was the overuse of CGI. Mostly because it is an obvious attempt to distract the audience from the poor craftsmanship of the whole thing. The main objective seems to have been to make sure as much was happening on screen as possible in the hope that the audience stopped listening to the words or noticing the acting.

The whole film has an air of desperation after it’s acceptance that there is little substance behind the gaudy spectacle. Of course saying this, there will always be a part of me that finds immense joy from watching these familiar characters outwitting the evil Cardinal and totally annihilating armies of men. Since I first watched the 1973 version I have had a secret desire to one day become a musketeer and, despite his shortcomings, Anderson has reignited my desire to smite my enemies with my trusty blade.