From Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in 48 Hrs. (1982) to Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan in Cop Out (2010), crime-fighting, mystery-solving duos have long been a staple of exciting storytelling, with nabbing the criminals typically playing second fiddle to the odd couple’s off-beat chemistry. Unfortunately for The Other Guys — in which Will Farrell and Mark Wahlberg are the duo in question – the film’s disjointed plot and inconsistent tone never give the two comic foils the time to create a comedy partnership.
While The Other Guys‘ opening scene sets the tone with an absurd guns-blazing, balls-to-the-wall car chase between a band of baddies and New York’s hottest cops, Samuel Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, it never truly settles on a comedy identity, flopping from absurd action to screwball comedy to slapstick buffoonery. As the misfit cops standing in Jackson’s and Johnson’s shadows, Hoitz (Wahlberg) and Gamble (Farrell) try to become local heroes by uncovering a diabolical investment crime perpetrated by the slimy David Ershon (Steve Coogan).
But the story doesn’t really matter — it’s a comedy. Though The Other Guys provides enough chuckles to barely carry it through its 100-minute run time, it never quit reaches the comedic buddy cop heights of Edgar Wright’s hilarious Hot Fuzz or Michael Bay’s bombastic Bad Boys. Much of the fault falls on writers Adam McKay and Chris Henchy, who can’t seem to settle on whether The Other Guys is more Lethal Weapon or The Naked Gun. At their best, Farrell’s and Wahlberg’s good cop, bad cop archetypes clash with hilarious honesty and exciting intensity, but most of the time, Wahlberg yells about being a peacock while Farrell acts like a baby.
The inconsistencies don’t end with the movie’s characters. The Other Guys often jumps from scene to scene with only a flimsy line of throwaway dialogue connecting the two, with a confusing voiceover occasionally popping in to tell us things we already know. The movie plays out more like a series of vignettes than a loosely tethered story. The one thing The Other Guys does have going for it is its cast. In addition to the charming, if stereotypical, Farrell and Wahlberg, Eva Mendes plays Gamble’s eye-candy wife and Michael Keaton plays the TLC-quoting Police Captain/Bed, Bath and Beyond Manager. On the surface, it would seem that The Other Guys has all the ingredients of a successful buddy cop movie, but McKay and Henchy cook up a half-baked crime caper that is quickly forgotten.
The icing on the cake? The appalling financial facts that blast recent government bailouts by putting the staggering numbers in terms that regular folk understand as the end credits roll. But where was the smart, satirical subtext when we were waiting for Farrell to do something funny? Maybe McKay and Henchy thought audiences would be too dumb to get it, or maybe they were busy writing zingers involving homeless men gangbanging in the back of a Prius. Either way, it’s just another missed opportunity in The Other Guys‘ mixed offering of slow motion gun fights and off-kilter comedy.