Saturday 30 March 2019

Movie Review: The Other Guys (2010)

A buddy cop comedy, The Other Guys combines sharp wit, good character dynamics and wild action.

In New York City, rock star police detectives Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne Johnson) grab all the headlines with spectacular arrests of multiple bad guys. Meanwhile detective Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) is known as a paper-pushing dimwit, and his partner Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) will never live down mistakenly shooting baseball superstar Derek Jeter. Their harried boss Captain Gene Mauch (Michael Keaton) does not believe they will ever amount to much.

When Highsmith and Danson are suddenly rendered inoperable, Allen and Terry agree to stop bickering and start doing field work. Allen's dogged investigation of construction scaffolding permit violations leads them to arrest corrupt billionaire Sir David Ershon (Steve Coogan), unknowingly triggering a massive pursuit as Ershon is at the centre of an illegal money transfer scheme involving international criminals. Meanwhile Terry is stunned to meet Allen's knock-out wife Dr. Sheila Ramos Gamble (Eva Mendes) and learns more about his partner's chequered college history.

The oil-and-water buddy cop movie genre is long in the tooth, but director and co-writer Adam McKay injects a large dose of revitalizing energy. By yanking background officers to the forefront and allocating good focus on their backstories, The Other Guys combines familiar bickering with unusual character-driven touches, always accompanied by a steady current of irascible humour.

Much joy is derived from Allen Gamble's unexpected story. From a stunning surgeon wife to a shady college business passing through hidden magnetism, there is more than initially meets the eye with the always happy brown nosed paper pusher. Through the eyes of his tightly would partner Terry, McKay sequentially teases out the always funny surprises. Will Ferrell is in his sweet spot, finding laughs by playing Allen straight, smart, but definitely different.

When it comes to jolts of wild action, McKay delivers with over-the-top panache. The car chases, crashes, and shoot-outs are perfectly paced, never over-used, and always played for exaggerated laughs. Other than some dubious editing, the carnage fits perfectly within the film's ambition.

The Other Guys will never be accused of startling originality or a cohesive plot. Despite Steve Coogan's best efforts to provide villain David Ershon with sophisticated smarm, the bad guys are generic and the money transfer deception barely sketched in. But the film happily skips past its weaknesses, riding a wave of fun with the unlikely partners experiencing the spotlight.

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