Long before Adam McKay began crafting critically acclaimed meditations on corruption like Vice and The Big Short, he made his mark with a series of totally chaotic, lowbrow brilliant comedies starring Will Ferrel starting with 2004's Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights (2006), and Step Brothers (2008).
But the very best of his films from the ensuing decade is criminally underrated 2010 comedy The Other Guys, a satirical buddy-cop parody that pushes the boundaries of believability in outrageous ways. It's a shame that The Other Guys will be removed from the Netflix library on February 11. Here's why you need to watch it ASAP.
The Other Guys is a silly subversion of typical buddy cop flicks like Lethal Weapon where you get a couple of strong personalities that hate each other, but then one "big case" comes along sets them on the path towards true bromance. Except Detectives Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) aren't the hotshot detectives you're expecting to see. (Hint: They're literally the other guys.)
Allen is a gentle forensic accountant. Terry is the angry but badass cop who accidentally shot Derek Jeter during the World Series (yes, seriously). Their miserable partnership feels like a punishment at the outset, especially when they're bullied by other detectives. The apex predators of the precinct are Detectives P.K. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Christopher Danson (Dwayne Johnson). That's right: Two of the highest-grossing actors of all time play the hotshot detectives whose pursuit of petty theft leads to millions of dollars worth of property damage. And everyone in New York City worships them for it. They share one early scene that is perhaps the single funniest piece of black humor this century.
While lingering in the long shadows of Highsmith and Danson, Allen picks up the trail of a sniveling equity fund manager committing fraud. It's uniquely suited to Allen's boring talents with paperwork, but once a group of mercenaries gets involved, Terry gets to flex his muscles in every sense of the phrase. This just might be their big break if they can avoid the endless string of farcical errors they make while investigating the case.
If you've seen any of McKay's films from this era you know what kind of humor to expect. Plenty of things don't make sense. Characters do not behave logically. But if you're willing to suspend your disbelief in the outrageous state of this universe, you'll relish in all the ridiculousness within.
There is Terry's passion for dance, or how their Captain (Michael Keaton) moonlights as a Bed Bath & Beyond manager and inexplicably slips TLC song lyrics into regular conversation, or even Allen's ability to effortlessly attract every beautiful woman he encounters. One of the most enduring bits of the film is Terry's disbelief in Allen's marriage to Eva Mendes' Sheila, a kindhearted doctor who worships Allen.
Despite being a gullible chump who drives a Prius (that a group of homeless people keeps having an orgy in), Allen has some special quality that not even we can see. And that makes him endlessly amusing. Ice-T's hard-hitting narration strikes a discordant tone that works too.
Most of The Other Guys' brisk 107-minute runtime feels like an endless series of shocking comedy sketches where you can't predict what'll happen next. It's almost like watching an alt-reality dream, but it works thanks to the comedic tension between Ferrell and Wahlberg. Their chemistry can make even their 2015 reunion Daddy's Home watchable.
As legend tells it (or rather McKay himself), the idea for The Other Guys arose from a dinner where Ferrell and Wahlberg sat next to each other and spent the night joking around. McKay went on to tell Den of Geek in 2010 that he described their dynamic as "one of the most interesting, odd chemistries I’ve ever seen." He realized with Wahlberg's background that it ought to be an action-comedy, and the idea of a buddy cop spoof seemed perfect. McKay also cites arguably the greatest police spoof, 2007's Hot Fuzz, as an inspiration.
"Just by virtue of it being a cop buddy film, it is a spoof," McKay said at the time. "It’s like doing a comedy that’s a Western."
Lingering in the background of The Other Guys — and overemphasized in the film's closing credits sequence — is a cutting indictment of Ponzi schemes and wealth disparity in America.
Regular Americans lost huge portions of their retirement accounts as a result of the 2008 market crisis, and the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief program President George W. Bush signed into law that year bailing out various financial institutions essentially cost every man, woman, and child $2,258 (according to The Other Guys). Roughly $183 billion went to A.I.G., and yet 73 employees still received bonuses after the bailout to the tune of $165 million.
This is the kind of behind-the-scenes manipulative financial tactics that The Other Guys dances around, but it had clearly been on McKay's mind for years, and there's a direct line between this movie and 2015's The Big Short. Wealth disparity has only grown in the decade since The Other Guys was released, and it's only getting worse. Not even Allen and Terry can save us, but at least they can entertain us long enough to get us paying attention. Maybe it's time for a sequel?
The Other Guys will be removed from the U.S. Netflix library on February 11, 2021.