****/**** Image A- Sound A Extras B+
starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Dwayne Johnson
screenplay by Adam McKay & Chris Henchy
directed by Adam McKay
by Ian Pugh SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. Think about what sort of film would place Will Ferrell's schlubby physique and vacant grin against Mark Wahlberg's sharp, furrowed brow. More than just comically mismatched, these two actors belong in different movies, different genres...on different planets, even. They share something resembling a love-hate "chemistry," but from the get-go the pairing feels off--different. Eventually you figure out that The Other Guys is the kind of movie that thrives on bizarre contradictions--the kind of movie where gun-toting heroes are sent to end corporate malfeasance, where their vehicles of choice are a Prius and a Gran Torino that runs on "100% vegetable oil," where they loudly defend not the awesomeness of Star Wars but its scientific accuracy.1 A quintessentially American response to the quintessentially British Hot Fuzz, Adam McKay's The Other Guys is the funniest, most delirious comedy I've seen in a long while, and it matches and exceeds the sharp cultural satire of McKay's Talladega Nights in tackling not so much the conventions of the buddy-cop genre as the childish drama that attends them.
This is a world where alpha-dog cops Danson (Dwayne Johnson) and Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) are given carte blanche to cause millions of dollars' worth of damage to New York City to catch a van full of low-level drug dealers. Detective Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg, who may have finally found his niche) has the chops to join their ranks, not to mention the requisite troubled past to make him a sympathetic hero, having accidentally shot a civilian. Unfortunately, the civilian in question was Derek Jeter, and that injury cost the Yankees the World Series--an unforgivable transgression indeed. So Hoitz was bumped down to a partnership with straight-arrow accountant Allen Gamble (Ferrell, whom I suspect can only really be funny under McKay's direction these days). When Danson and Highsmith are accidentally killed in the line of duty, they leave a gaping hole in the "hero" department. Although Hoitz and Gamble try to fill that void, they only manage to stumble across a case involving investment banker David Erschon (Steve Coogan) and a billion-dollar embezzlement scheme. Danson and Highsmith leave in their wake the desire to constantly live life on the edge--they weren't good cops, we are told, but they dealt out the uncomplicated gung-ho justice that everyone loved. Out of the many films McKay has made featuring adults who bully each other like grade-schoolers, this one makes the most sense, because The Other Guys is built entirely on a hierarchy of machismo--and, as in Talladega Nights, that hierarchy is the only true measure of accomplishment. (As Allen's mistakes accumulate, his firearm is replaced by a wooden gun and, soon thereafter, a rape whistle.) So if you can't take care of the white-collar criminals without a healthy dose of kiss-kiss-bang-bang, what's the effin' point? Consider, too, how the picture treats women as commodities within the context of its genre: Allen constantly derides his beautiful wife Sheila (scorching Eva Mendes) as "plain," while Hoitz decides that he must have her and the girlfriend who refuses to marry him. Go big or go home; the problem revealed in this film is that no success will ever be big enough. That's why The Other Guys reaches the apex of its brilliance with a direct reference to Rockstar's "Grand Theft Auto" series--a nod not only to the kitchen-sink ridiculousness of the movie's own action sequences2 (its antics are roughly analogous to a four- or five-star Wanted level) but also to the videogames' ongoing theme of chaos wrought by the insatiable desire for more blood, more sex, and more money.3
Ultimately, The Other Guys is about delusions of entitlement. (Maybe that's why this "partnership" seems so odd--every man for himself!) Hoitz eventually regains a stable lifestyle by flailing his gun around and screaming like a lunatic and Gamble breaks out of his shell by calling back to his criminal college years. It doesn't even matter that the white-collar fraudulence inevitably goes unpunished--what matters is that everyone has made themselves feel a little better, a little manlier, by confronting the big issues of the day on their own terms. (Added to this dose of cynicism is a series of charts and graphs played over the end credits, describing the state of the corporate world, post-bailout.) At first, it feels like a knock on action movies as a whole, but it's actually a smart reflection of our unique addiction to happy endings, no matter how illogical or irresolute they might be. When Hoitz--a violent, homophobic, fatally insecure man--declares that he's a "peacock [that's] gotta fly," then, by God, peacocks are gonna learn how to fucking fly. Originally published: August 6, 2010.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
by Bill Chambers Another Apatow Factory production, another bloated Blu-ray--though credit where credit is due that at least the bonus features didn't spill over to a second platter this time. The uniformly-HD extras begin with the traditional "Line-o-Rama" (9 mins.), a highlights reel of discarded improv that's different from the "Gag Reel" (6 mins.) in that the actors manage to keep a straight face. I've never been a fan of either, but your mileage may vary, especially if you're a card-carrying comedy nerd. Eighteen deleted or extended scenes (30 mins. total) include two more Anne Heche sightings, another bit where Mark Wahlberg's Terry ambushes his ex-girlfriend at a black-tie event (the punchline to this one is excruciatingly predictable), a low-key alternate ending, and a singular abuse of that PG-13 cussword "shit." Ending in a cameo it'd be churlish to spoil, "Flash Forwards" (2 mins.) is the remnants of a fairly amusing running gag that would've shown what became of the buildings and people reduced to collateral damage by the film's action sequences. (After the explosion at Trump Towers, for instance, we flash forward to Donald Trump himself extolling the virtues of his newly spacious lobby.) "Alternate Action" is like "Line-o-Rama" but with stunts, while "Wasn't That???" (15 mins.), "Crash and Burn!", and "Why Are There Brits in This Movie?" (7 mins.) are all makings-of of a sort, the first and especially the last--which feels interminable--consisting of director Adam McKay and cast trading insults via their talking heads. Still, it's interesting to learn that Beverly Hills Cop and Midnight Run served as templates for The Other Guys, even if it was already a given.
"Rob Riggle Likes to Party" (3 mins.) is a mindless clip in which actor Riggle passively flirts with McKay's attractive assistant between takes, but the bonus material gets something of a second wind with "We Shouldn't Kiss Chicken" (1 min.), wherein co-screenwriter Chris Henchy attempts to make out with various members of the crew male and female--the first one to pull away loses. In addition to being an unpleasant reminder of "Entourage" and Wahlberg's hand in creating it, "Mark Wahlberg's Eating Contest Entourage" (4 mins.) offers repulsive testimony to the eating prowess of one "Nacho Libre," a Burt Young type who boasts of ulcers, perforated arteries, and cancerous tumors before guzzling a plastic cup full of Tabasco sauce. (Asked whether he's okay, he replies, "We'll know in 20 minutes." The end.) "Bed Bath and Way Beyond" (4 mins.) is bliss for an old-school Michael Keaton fan, as it contains outtakes of his pep talk to the staff "Bed, Bath & Beyond"--a joke, Keaton says in an introductory interview, informed his decision to do the film. "Lendl Global Commercial" (40s) is a poor cousin to the Veridian Dynamics advertising as seen on "Better Off Ted" but still an aesthetically effective send-up of advertising from corporate monoliths that don't actually manufacture or sell anything tangible; I think the final shot is stock footage of Toronto's Eaton Centre. "Extreme Close Up" (5 mins.) satirizes EPKs by shooting the same-old vacant soundbites so close to the interviewees' faces that they fog up the lens. A little of this goes a long way, and the same could be said for "Everyone Hates the DVD Guy" (5 mins.), wherein a cranky cast and crew heap misery on the unseen B-roll videographer.
On the other hand, the (deafeningly loud) video for Eva Mendes + Cee Lo's "Pimps Don't Cry," produced by FUNNY OR DIE but ready-made for BET, is tops. The funniest thing about this song? It's the best James Bond theme in years. Some BD-Live ephemera and HiDef previews for The Social Network, Salt, and Easy A round out the supplementals, not counting the feature-length "Mom"-mentary, which, as you probably guessed, teams the mothers of McKay, Henchy, and Will Ferrell, who are predictably proud of their boys. Funniest thing about this? They praise the seamlessness of the movie's special effects--and they're right. The yakker appends a 2.40:1, 1080p transfer that consistently gleams. Aesthetically, The Other Guys is a significant step up from McKay's previous collaborations with Ferrell; the Super35 grain of Step Brothers is still in place, but the image is brighter, higher-contrast, and sharper to boot. The colour palette is teal-and-orange, and though there may or may not be an element of parody in that, if I have any problem with this presentation it's the occasional blotting of those sulphuric skin tones recognizable from the recent cinema of Michael Bay. The Other Guys is also one comedy you can't accuse of having a "comedy mix"; there is perhaps no better metaphor for the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track on this disc than the wrecking ball seen early in the film, although the audio has exceptional dynamic range. The BD contains both the theatrical and unrated versions of The Other Guys, the latter running 11 minutes longer. Its most substantial addition--and arguably the only one that skews towards an R rating--is a post-credits tag that ends in a shattered fourth wall. Viewers can choose to have a marker alert them to previously-deleted footage. A promo for Sony's Blu-ray 3D slate cues up on startup. Originally published: December 13, 2010.
1. Also worth mentioning is how the film approaches strange incongruities within American pop culture--one early sequence finds Ferrell humming the theme from "S.W.A.T." before launching into the theme from "I Dream of Jeannie". return
2. The absurd soundtrack cues during the car chases ("Reminiscing" by Little River Band and "Monday, Monday" by The Mamas & The Papas) remind immediately of the pop music that can blast from the car radio as you wreak havoc on Liberty City. return
3. That sense of instant gratification is further bolstered by an uproarious series of smash-cuts in which Hoitz and Gamble accept bribes from Erschon without realizing that they are bribes. return