Sony // 2010 // 116 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // December 9th, 2010
"I hope you like prison food...and penis!"
"I'm gonna do you Grandpa style."
Super cops Danson (Dwayne Johnson, Doom) and Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction) are New York City's finest. Regardless of the escalating property damage they are responsible for, the two are unparalleled at bringing in the badguys, and are media darlings. In complete contrast, Detectives Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights) and Gamble (Will Ferrell, Stranger Than Fiction) are a joke. Hoitz has been a laughing stock since an unfortunate shooting incident, while Gamble puts the "a" in anally retentive.
But when Danson and Highsmith's egos finally push them too far, there's suddenly a chance for another team to step up and become the precincts number one. While Hoitz looks to crack the first big case that comes in, Gamble insists on investigating an apparently routine financial scam involving entrepreneur David Erhson (Steve Coogan, Tropic Thunder). Much to Hoitz' surprise, the case soon blows open revealing a web of corruption that could be the biggest in the city's history. Finally Hoitz and Gamble have a chance to be somebody, instead of just being The Other Guys.
From the team that brought you the comedy classic Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, as well as the excellent Talledega Nights and the sporadically brilliant Step Brothers, comes The Other Guys -- a 3 star film wrapped in a 5 star cast.
Will Ferrell and co-writer/director Adam McKay's previous collaborations are not known for their intricate plots. In fact, the flimsy storylines often feel like an excuse to string together a collection of barely related gags. The Other Guys is notable for the change of direction taken by the writing duo, as for the first time they have come up with a plot that adheres rigidly to the three act structure, with a cohesive storyline as well as the obligatory twists and a climactic finale. The result of this is a film that isn't smart enough to work as a thriller, too lacking in thrills to work as an action movie, and so devoid of funny moments that you'll frequently go for 10 minutes at a time without anything but a titter. Though certainly intended as a comedy, The Other Guys often concerns itself too much with being a police procedural -- often at the expense of laughs, and though inevitably moments do hit the mark, it all just feels so...mediocre.
Ferrell -- usually dependable, even when playing a more straight role -- feels restrained here. Though there are moments of the usual Ferrell madness, with bizarre rants and ad-libs hitting the spot beautifully, they are all too rare this time around. Ferrell's partner in crime(prevention) is Mark Whalberg, who relishes the chance to send up his tough guy image. Whalberg and Ferrell display a good chemistry, with Whalberg embracing the more surreal moments as wholeheartedly as his co-star. But compared to the likes of Brian Fantana (Anchorman), these characters lack the personality and small details that would demand repeat viewings.
McKay and Ferrell's screenplay splutters rather than flows, and never quite manages to get into gear -- though it does contain sparkling nuggets of comedy gold. When the film's more off-the-wall moments do occur, The Other Guys becomes a whole new beast entirely -- even if these moments do feel out of place in what is otherwise such a staid and uninspired movie. Ferrell's character of Gamble possesses a dark side that he fears unleashing -- as he acknowledges during the film. As he slowly begins to regress, and allow himself to give in to the crazy, Gamble starts to resemble something like the comedy creations we've come to expect from Ferrell. McKay's cameo, as the vagrant Dirty Mike, is priceless. In a running gag, "Dirty Mike and the Boys" take every opportunity they can to have an orgy in Gamble's Prius; it's side achingly funny, and proves to be the highlight of the film. Ferrell and McKay have a wonderful habit of littering their scripts with bizarre exchanges of dialogue, and if The Other Guys lacks the quantity of their earlier efforts, it still contains some real gems that hark back to their superior works. ("If I were a lion and you were a tuna, I would swim out in the middle of the ocean and freaking eat you and then I'd bang your tuna girlfriend.")
The support cast is blessed with a host of comedy talent, and each is wasted -- none more so that Michael Keaton (Beetlejuice). Keaton is as natural a comedic actor as you could hope for, able to play it straight when needed or go all-out crazy. His character, Captain Gene Mauch, has so much potential -- he has a second job at Bed Bath and Beyond -- but besides his constant quoting of TLC ("do me a favor, don't got chasing waterfalls"), it's hard not to feel Keaton has been underutilized. He's one of the funniest parts of the movie, so why not use him more? Likewise Steve Coogan is a genius (as anyone who has seen his latest series The Trip is likely to attest), but here he's given little room to stamp his mark on the film. The rest of the cast; which includes Eva Mendes, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (Doom), and Samuel L. Jackson; are all given brief roles that fail to exploit the comedic talents on offer. The treatment of Johnson and Jackson is particularly grating. Here we have two of the most charismatic and downright cool actors working today, and yet they are given such short shrift. Their roles are poorly written parodies of their action hero status that never pay off.
Without being particularly striking, the 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation of The Other Guys offers a rather pleasing transfer. The image is sharp with good, if not great, levels of detail. Colors are not particularly vibrant, though this appears to be due more a stylistic choice as it is in keeping with the film's action movie leanings. The audio fares a little better, with a nice use of the rear speakers during action scenes and crisp dialogue throughout.
The DVD contains both the theatrical (PG-13) and Unrated cuts of The Other Guys. The Unrated cut adds an extra 10 minutes to a film that, in all honesty, could have done with 10 minutes shaved off. It's just too long, and even a Ferrell nut like myself found my interest waning far to early. There are also two short featurettes included. "Bed Bath and Way Beyond" -- which focuses on Michael Keaton's role -- only further strengthens the feeling that Keaton was massively underused in the film, while "Crash and Burn" deals with the film's stunt sequences. For fans of The Other Guys who have a HD-setup, it would be advisable to ditch the DVD and look at the feature packed Blu-ray release instead.
It's impossible to watch The Other Guys without drawing comparisons to the infinitely superior Hot Fuzz. But where Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg played with genre conventions, Ferrell and McKay seem bound by them, limiting the comedic potential of their movie.
Though you'll certainly get a handful of great comedy moments, The Other Guys is just not up to the standard expected of Ferrell and McKay and is a massive disappointment.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Theatrical Version
* Official Site