"The Other Guys" is not your typical comedy at all, instead it reminds me of the cop comedies that came out during the late 1980's and early 90's. Films like Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon, Fletch, 48 Hours or Midnight Run. The Adam Mckay directed action comedy is just the right mix of caper and laughs. Unlike McKay's other Will Ferrell comedies, the 107 minute summer movie is no where near as zany and far more reserved than he's previously shown us.
There are a couple reasons why I think "The Other Guys" works so well. First off, we are use to Will Ferrell delivering ridiculous performances. In fact, we may have seen one too many of them. Ferrell scales back his over-the-top moments quite a bit from what we've seen him do so frequently in the past. That is not to say that Ferrell doesn't get foolish, because he does, it's just that McKay and Chris Henchy's script has more real life feel to it than the typical daffy antics Ferrell can be known for.
Another aspect of "The Other Guys" that makes it work, is it feels real. Too many crime films focus on this lone gunman type villain or mastermind. Your typical villain is not what this film uses at all. McKay's comedy instead gets realistic with a business-type scandal that you wouldn't picture most cops doing detective work towards. Detectives Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) are not going after the mob, or some evil murderer, they are going after a corporate entity who is breaking the law through paperwork and bank accounts. All of the gloss is taken away. Giving the film this realistic setting makes a tremendous amount of sense and furthermore gives the comedy an original take that I found very refreshing.
Just because the film doesn't have your cliche villain doesn't mean Gamble and Hoitz aren't doing police work, because they are. Much like any crime film you've seen, "The Other Guys" goes through the motions we've seen done to nauseam. The movie also moves and looks much more like a cop drama than it does a comedy. This is what brought be back to movies like Lethal Weapon or 48 Hours, this movie could have very easily became a straight out cop drama.
What keeps it fresh is the hilarious chemistry between Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. I know a lot of people don't find Wahlberg very funny, but I like him far more in a role like this than I do trying to play some badass cop from a video game. Wahlberg has some great timing and his exchanges with Ferrell are worth the price admission alone. Both Ferrell and Wahlberg bickering is hilarious throughout. I also really liked the situations they would put the two cops through. These partners are the very definition of mismatched. Allen Gamble is perfectly content working on paperwork from his desk, while Terry Hoitz is always itching to get out into the field. Again, Ferrell and Wahlberg do a fabulous job both working off each other and within the confines of their particular roles.
The supporting cast to "The Other Guys" is pretty strong as well. Michael Keaton is given a decent role as the Captain and despite his running joke that gets a bit tedious, I really enjoyed seeing Keaton back in action. Eva Mendes, who plays Ferrell's wife also delivers a laughable performance as the perfect wife. Mendes and Ferrell have a few great exchanges and when combined with Wahlberg's quarks, I really got a big kick out of every scene between the three of them. Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans Jr. have a couple good moments, but unfortunately they end up coming across like Steve Coogan, ultimately being underused.
In the end "The Other Guys" is a off beat cop comedy that ended up really surprising me. I didn't have high expectations because I've grown tired of Will Ferrell's antics, but walked away really enjoying it for what it was. I loved the fact that it felt like a real cop drama that was highlighted with hilarity. The film also brought back my respect for Adam McKay who was beginning to come across as a one note director.