Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Other Guys

"Did That Go the Way You Thought It Was Gonna Go? Nope."
"Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used...(what's the rest?)" "As a Flotation Device..."

More comedy, and this one's even very funny for its first half, but then, once one scene goes sideways and doesn't work, the whole thing falls apart like a hostage situation gone wrong.  And the audience is the hostage, waiting for it to kick back in...but it never does.

Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) are two New York City detectives working in the considerable shadow of detectives Danson and Highsmith (Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson in nice parodies of their "serious" screen-work), a team of glory-hounds for whom property damage is all in a day's conflagration, but who refuse to do the paperwork.  Gamble is self-described as "an accountant for law-and-order," and Hoitz is riding a desk-job after a shooting that goes wrong.*  Gamble loves the mundane filing, but his partner Hoitz, itches to be "in the field."  "I'm a peacock!" he is fond of remonstrating.  "You've got to let me fly!"   At which point, he is reminded that peacocks do not fly.**

Unperturbed, and when advancement in the ranks becomes possible, the two glom onto a white-collar crime that Gamble has discovered that has connections to a series of high-profile robberies.  The mis-matched pair (Hoitz is volatile, Gamble is eerily up-beat) are completely street-dumb and their investigation is constantly being dis-railed (sometimes literally) by distractions and their lack of ability to resist the charms of their high-rolling suspect's lifestyle.  Their increasing frustration with the case and each other (as well as Hoitz's relationship problems, in contrast with the milquetoast Gamble's inexplicable attractiveness to women) is fertile ground for situations that explode in conflict.

It works and works gang-busters for the first hour.  The combination of loose script and improvisation is beefed up by all the actors (especially Ferrell and Michael Keaton,*** who does quick-silver wonders with the cliche "harried Captain" role), especially when the story is building and we're getting to know the characters.  The "left-field" surprises come fast and loose, and the timing by the actors (and the editing) is crack.  One senses trouble early on when Anne Heche (uncredited, by the way) is given a thankless role in which she's really not allowed to do anything funny...or much of anything.  But Ferrell, for the most part, is at the top of his game playing the contrary stiff in a room full of crazies, and Wahlberg who, depending on the material, can be brilliant, plays pathetic frustration hilariously.  Even Eva Mendes acquits herself well in the mix, milking laughs out of the role of Gamble's absurdly perfect wife—Gamble's sexual magnetism makes for a great series of running gags throughout the movie.

But, right at the point where Bob, the union rep, gets dissed and leaves the room, the entire movie goes flat.****  Maybe the improv was getting too expensive and they decided to "coast."  Maybe the assurance of an "action-filled" finale made them scrimp on the script.  Maybe the irrelevant story-line getting in the way changed the tone.  Maybe everyone got tired.  But, for whatever reason, "The Other Guys" is two movies..."Good Cop" comedy and "Bad Cop" comedy.

Interestingly, the most useful part of the movie is the end credits where the increasing disparity between the incomes of the top 1% earners and the rest of us is presented in chilling graphic detail.

"Wilhelm" Alert @ 1:30

"The Other Guys" is a Rental.

* Hint:  He's called "The Yankee Clipper" around the squad-room.

** What can I say?  It's New York, and the Bronx Zoo is the closest they come to a peacock.  Peacocks do indeed fly, but it's a brief, clumsy, scary thing to watch—which I think was the point of bringing it up in the movie.

*** Yeah, yeah, I know, it won't happen and it would be recast with Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington in the roles, but I'd love to see Keaton and James Woods go head-to-head with each anything.  It would be dizzying...and probably only discernible at half-speed.

**** It's funny I can pinpoint it, because that's where the movie became NOT funny, and I thought to myself..."Well, THAT didn't work..." and watched to my amazement as very little worked after.

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