It’s been a long time since America’s made a decent big budget action-comedy. Personally, I blame 9/11 for destroying America’s ability to laugh at explosions, but maybe that’s just me.
Whatever the cause, the few faltering attempts to bring back the wise-cracking death-dealing action hero haven’t exactly tripped anyone’s trigger – remember the aptly named Cop Out
? So it comes as a massive relief to find that The Other Guys
doesn’t just work as a comedy – not there was much doubt there, what with Will Ferrell re-teaming with director Adam McKay (Anchorman
, Talladega Nights
, Step Brothers
) – but there’s some solid action going on as well.
While hero cops Highsmith (Samuel L Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson) are driving around blowing up half of New York and causing millions of dollars of highly entertaining damage, Allen Gamble (Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) are back in the office doing their paperwork.
In Gamble’s case, it’s because he actually likes paperwork; for the boiling rage kettle that is Hoitz, his desk duties are a result of being a little too trigger-happy around a major sporting star. But just as Highsmith & Danson’s career comes to a surprising halt, Gamble’s obsession with nailing a big businessman (Steve Coogan) on a minor construction violation drops them into a world of car chases, financial double-dealings, and burly thugs with Australian accents and a fondness for taking other people’s shoes.
The Highsmith & Danson scenes aside, this isn’t really a send-up of action movies; it’s an action movie with non-action heroes, so the quality varies a fair bit between the straight comedy moments and the scenes where the plot creaks forward. Comedy-wise, the conversation where Hoitz says he hates Gamble so much he’d eat him “even if you were out of my food chain” and Gamble turns the tables on his example is pure gold, yet the usually reliable laugh-getter Coogan is stuck playing Basil Exposition in a string of “they’re after me!” scenes.
It’s the out-of-nowhere moments that really make this film: it turns out that Gamble is somehow super-attractive to women (his wife is both a doctor and Eva Mendes) and used to be a pimp called Gator, while Hoitz learnt ballet just to make fun of kids who honestly liked ballet.
Ferrell is playing slightly out of type here, though anyone who’s watched TV’s The IT Crowd will see a lot of uber-nerd Ross in his early scenes, but as the movie progresses and Gamble steps up to be an action hero (of sorts) Ferrell returns to manic type.
It’s Wahlberg who’s the real surprise here, providing strong support as a very angry man who sadly lacks the amazingly foul-mouthed vocab he had playing a fairly similar character straight in The Departed
. There’s a few stabs at linking the fairly generic plot to America’s current financial strife (especially during the lay-it-all-out statistics-heavy final credits sequence), but the real point of The Other Guys
is to have people make jokes then watch cars crash and buildings explode.
On both counts, this hits the target… then makes a pretty decent joke about it.
The Other Guys
opens in Australian cinemas this Thursday (September 9th).
Words by Anthony Morris. More at thevine.com.au