Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Other Guys

"I am a peacock and you have to let me fly"

This is without doubt one the funniest movies of the year. Will Ferrel can be a little hit or miss in my eyes, but this one is definitely a hit! The jokes are funny without crossing that fine line into ridiculous and Mark Wahlberg was the perfect choice to play the straight man of the story. At the time of writing, Rotten Tomatoes rates the movie at 76%

The story revolves around the downtrodden average cops Allen Gamble (Ferrel) and Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg) who are constantly marginalized and outshined by the other detectives in the squad, specifically Highsmith and Danson (played by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson). Gamble is perfectly content to sit at his desk and file paperwork for the rest of his life, but Hoitz has dreams of something bigger, he wants to be out there on the street. The investigation of a simple violation involving construction permits gives Hoitz just the opportunity he's been waiting for, now all he has to do is convince Gamble to join him for the ride (easier said than done). This is where the movie really picks up and launches us into the main plot. Several car chases, gun fights and explosions later we arrive at a very satisfying conclusion.

Ferrel and Wahlberg work surprisingly well together. The comic timing is just as sharp as it was between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black. Which is to say that, even though on paper it seems like it shouldn't work, in practice it all comes together nicely. Credit has to go to the supporting cast though, especially Michael Keaton, who portrays Captain Gene Mauch. Keaton steals pretty much every scene he's in, especially when it is revealed that he moonlights in a slightly more conventional profession, but I don't want to spoil that one here, just wait and see. Eva Mendes is clearly having fun in the role of Gambles wife, much to Hoitz amazement, they riff on that gag at least a half dozen times within a five minute segment. Finally I want to mention Steve Coogan who plays David Ershon, one of the primary suspects in the case. Between Ferrel and Coogan the slapstick comedy is firing on all cylinders.

As I said, I felt that the jokes in this movie managed to maintain the laughs without delving into absurdity. This is something that I feel a lot of comedy flicks get wrong. In the effort to get a laugh they will take a joke too far and cross that line. The Other Guys is one of those few comedies that gets it right. Ferrel and Wahlberg play off each other perfectly, the supporting cast add to the laughs nicely and the slap stick comedy works really well. The car chase scenes were probably my favorite part of the movie, there's something very unique and special about a car chase involving a red Prius. Certainly the movie won't be winning any awards, but with a consensus of 76% on RT it was surprisingly well received by the critics. Overall, the movie is a lot of fun, and it will keep you laughing even after you've left the theater.

Final Verdict on The Other Guys:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


"Then you are a Russian spy."

It was certainly an exciting action flick, but overall I felt the plot ended up being far too fantastical to maintain my suspension of disbelief. It's not unusual for me to disagree with critics, but in this case I'm actually pretty satisfied with the current consensus on Rotten Tomatoes - that being 58%.

The plot begins with a pretty vanilla set up. As outlined in the trailer Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is accused of being a Russian spy and subsequently goes on the run to clear her name. Heading up the pursuit are Salts former partner Ted Winter (Liev Shreiber) and an internal affairs type Agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). From this we spin into a typical Bourne style romp of chase scenes, gun fights, lightening fast hand to hand and of course several instances of betrayal and double crosses.

As you might guess, the high point of the movie lies with Jolie and Schreiber who both turn in terrific performances in their respective roles. In fact even the supporting cast add some great stuff to the movie, especially Chiwetel Ejiofor (you might remember him from a little Joss Whedon flick called Serenity) and Olek Krupa who has a brief stint as the Russian President (he's been in a ton of movies of the years, but you might have seen him recently in Burn After Reading). The only casting choice I really question is that of U.S. President Lewis, played by Hunt Block. I just don't think he conveyed a 'Presidential' presence on screen.

SPOILER ALERT - Much of what I am going to discuss from here on out will directly spoil the big plot twists and the ending of the movie, you have been warned!!

  • The Russians are the villain. Haven't we outgrown this particular stereotype yet? Maybe if the movie had been made 20-30 years ago that would have gone unnoticed, but today it feels like a bit of a stretch to feature a Cold War era Russian plot.
  • The villains plan was to take control of the U.S nuclear stockpile and use it to attack its (Americas) enemies thus kick starting a global war against the United States. This seems rather familiar, oh that's right its the plot of Terminator - apparently Skynet is Russian this time.
  • The method by which they will accomplish their dastardly plan is by implanting sleeper agents into the country. By sleeper agents I really do mean sleeper agents, these folks have been in America for upwards of 30 years. These sleepers will infiltrate several levels of law enforcement and government agencies as part of their elaborately complicated plot. 
  • Salt really is a Russian agent. This might have been clever if they had left it at that, but they had to go one step further and turn her into a triple agent. When you start interjecting this many levels of betrayal and mistrust, you start to get into the realm of Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End - seriously I still can't figure out who was betraying who in that one. As if that wasn't enough, the reason she apparently decides to turn on her Russian masters is because they kidnapped and killed her husband, whom she really was in love with. Of course it was a little hard to get that vibe from the barely 10 minutes of screen time he gets. 
  • Not only was Salt a sleeper, Winter was as well. On the plus side, Liev Shreiber is great at the whole sinister villain thing, but on the downside what are the odds that two agents (who are in fact partners) would both be sleepers. At this point my suspension of disbelief had flat-lined and I was struggling to finish the showing.

    So what were my overall feelings on this one? I was disappointed. I think perhaps it's another case of expecting one thing and getting something else. The trailer, as is so often the case these days, didn't do the movie any favors. It made Salt out to be a straight up Bourne movie with a female in the leading role. Instead it was a mish-mash of action scenes and 'wheels within wheels within wheels' levels of betrayal. As I said, it's all about the suspension of disbelief, and Salt fails to maintain it. From the Russian villains to the convoluted 'evil genius' style plot it was far too out of this world to keep me interested. I will say that the action scenes were great and the acting was on the whole very good, but neither of these things are enough to outweigh the poorly constructed story.

    Final verdict: