The Other Guys

The Other Guys

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Fond of buddy cop movies? Then the opening of this film will seem too good to be true, as Samuel L Jackson and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson cruise down a city street at unlikely speeds in a chase that will see the destruction of several public buildings and a bus. After the public ceremony, the praise and the cheers and the gossip about glamorous girlfriends, there's just time to stop off at the office and dump the paperwork on devoted accountant Allen (Will Ferrell) before swinging back into action. But unfortunately for them, this is too good to be true, and an inability to distinguish between what's cool in cop movies and what's wise in real life sees them swiftly written out of the rest of he film.

When heroes like these fall, there's never any shortage of others keen to take their high-profile places. One of these is Terry (Mark Wahlberg), but it's difficult to make an impression when he's saddled with Prius-driving, easy listening fan Allen as his partner. It's the familiar mismatched-cops-turn-buddies story, but inventively played. Wahlberg, perfect in his role, has fun sending up his macho persona and remains sympathetic even as the childishness of his constant aggression is exposed. Ferrell plays it completely straight as the supremely dull Allen, only gradually revealing a more complex nature and an unexplained attractiveness to absurdly hot women. Yet it's his obsession with paperwork that leads them into a criminal case which will change everything.

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This film is much smarter than it seems on the surface, but whether or not that will work to its advantage is hard to say - people don't usually go to see Will Ferrell films looking for sophistication. Those fans should be reassured that there is still a great deal of silliness, plus more car chases and things exploding. They may, however, find the central story frustrating, as it revolves around a complicated white collar crime and is in places difficult to follow. It's a brave subject to have taken on. A pivotal anecdote about Allen's college days underlines the film's central concerns. If black or Hispanic people commit a crime, with guns and shouting, it's easy to identify. If nice middle class white people do it with computers and polite smiles, it's quite possible no-one will notice. Yet as the animations over the end credits make clear, crimes like this cost ordinary people a fortune. Who is going to take them on? If it has to be two mismatched, movie-obsessed cops who depend largely on luck, so be it.

Aside from being thoughtful this is, of course, political, which will also surprise Ferrell fans, but that's not to say that the film ever comes across as preachy - in fact the seriousness of its subject matter is perfectly balanced by the silliness of the action. An excellent cast of stalwart B-movie veterans accords nicely with the film's dedication to 'the other guys' who do the hard work behind most big successes, and sometime stars like Michael Keaton add nice touches. The rounded characters they create mean we care more than usual when we see them in peril. There are plenty of cruel lines and refreshingly little overt sentiment, but this is a film that will engage your emotions as well as getting your pulse racing and, with a bit of luck, making you think. Not bad for a cop comedy.

Reviewed on: 14 Sep 2010
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After their heroes meet a valiant but stupid end, two back-office cops rise to the call and quickly get out of their depth.
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Director: Adam McKay

Writer: Adam McKay, Chris Henchy

Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Steve Coogan, Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Michael Delaney

Year: 2010

Runtime: 107 minutes

Country: US

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