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The Other Guys

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Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell in The Other Guys
In a summer that has featured more tumbleweed than laughter in cinemas, The Other Guys is the equivalent of finding a warm bottle of water after a long trek in the desert. Far from the ideal thirst-quencher, it nonetheless does the job. Casting aside this laboured aqua analogy, the movie’s relative success is primarily a result of the inspired pairing of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as two ‘odd couple’ cops who are armed with a series of killer lines and amusing scenarios.

A very lively opening introduces the thief-nabbing heroism of two officers played by Samuel L Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, forming a stark contrast to the mundane paperwork duties undertaken by bickering deskbound cops Allen (Ferrell) and Terry (Wahlberg). Before long, the squabbling duo are compelled to trade in the office for the streets, in a bid to prove themselves to their quirky boss Captain Gene (Michael Keaton) by busting some dodgy financial dealings and kidnappings in New York City. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t all go smoothly - especially as Allen is only equipped with a wooden gun and has a car in which homeless folks like to stage orgies. You won’t see that kind of thing on The Bill...

Without going into too much spoilerish detail, there are plenty of quoteworthy moments of surreal hilarity from the genial Ferrell, including a tuna-related threat aimed at his colleague and the emergence of a pimp alter ego from his uni days. A silent fight scene at a wake also recalls the brilliance of the Naked Gun movies. As the slightly unhinged straight man, Wahlberg deploys his brooding masculinity in fine style. In particular, his constant exasperation at how the nerdy Allen is such a babe magnet - with the luscious Eva Mendes playing his wife - generates guffaws aplenty. Michael Keaton also delivers a fine reminder of his comedic skills as the TLC-quoting police captain.

Reminiscent in tone to Anchorman, the main flaw that prevents The Other Guys from attaining classic status is the poorly-structured and incoherent storyline revolving around the case that Allen and Terry try to solve. Criminal not just in content, the plot is foregrounded in the latter section of the movie - and relegates the winning banter and interaction between Ferrell and Wahlberg as a result. Surprisingly, Steve Coogan’s turn as a dodgy banker saps the movie of much of the momentum it generated, although his role is one of those terribly-written English aristocrat stock villains which tend to infiltrate Hollywood movies when a Russian bad guy isn’t fancied.

Well worth seeing for the barrage of genuine laugh-out-loud moments in its first half, The Other Guys is an example of a movie that peters out by conforming to storytelling convention. A shootout finale was simply not required when the gems being fired out of the mouths of the characters were far more cutting than bullets. There’s certainly scope for a deserved sequel to redress the balance.


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