Dumb and dumberer: (l-r) Wahlberg and
Ferrell in The Other Guys.
by Adam McKay
or not the American moviegoing public was crying out for yet
another over-the-top parody of the classic buddy cop films
of the last couple of decades is immaterial. Adam McKay, who
directed the funniest (and most outrageous) Will Ferrell comedies
(Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega
Nights), has again teamed with the comedian to give us
something hilarious—and strange.
Ferrell is Allen, a police accountant, and Mark Wahlberg is
his partner Terry, a supercop busted down to desk detective
for an unfortunate, unauthorized weapon discharge. They’re
the titular “other guys,” who will have to “step up” when
the real guys fail.
In this case, the “real guys” are a couple of trash-talking,
gun-crazy detectives played with extreme relish by Samuel
L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson. This humor is where the film
is strongest: Macho cop culture is mercilessly parodied, even
ridiculed. A support group for police forced to discharge
their weapons turns into a wonderfully offensive cock-measuring
contest; one of the biggest laughs in the picture occurs when
a couple of cops get killed, and their funeral turns into
another opportunity for black comedy.
And The Other Guys is set in New York City.
Somebody get Glenn Beck a handkerchief: Irony lives, and the
so-called “9/12 spirit” is well and truly dead.
Ferrell is most effective when his character isn’t aware what
a complete freak he is. That’s the way it is here. Of course
this buttoned-down desk jockey had an unsavory—and wholly
unconvincing—criminal career in his college days. Of course
this pudgy dork would have a conventionally “hot” wife (Eva
Mendes), and relentlessly deny that she’s anything more than
“cute.” Of course he’d find a way to turn humiliation—his
superior (Michael Keaton, making the most of a smallish part)
taking away his real gun and giving him a wooden replacement—into
an asset. Yes, Wahlberg gets his share of the laughs, but
if Ferrell’s character weren’t on the mark, the film wouldn’t
There’s a plot involving financial shenanigans of the type
that wrecked our economy, and the filmmakers would like to
make some points about bailouts and white-collar criminality.
This is fine as far as it goes, but is nowhere near as funny
as the movie’s inspired nonsense, like the gang of hobosexuals
who defile Allen’s Prius with their grubby orgies.
Other Guys isn’t a masterpiece—really, Anchorman
is the gold standard for this kind of humor—but I laughed
all the way through the film. And a laugh is nothing to sneeze
by Debra Granik
Winter’s Bone reminds the jaded film critic what was originally
appealing and vital about independent cinema. It presents
a gritty, everyday story of poverty, crime and murder, which
is beautifully performed by skilled actors you’ve never seen
before. And there’s nothing twee about the characters or their
emotions, and absolutely nothing ironic about the use of violence.
For example, there’s a chilling scene, late in the picture,
in which a gang discusses a bloodied character’s fate. It
goes something like this:
are we gonna do with you?”
The last line is not played for laughs; the matter-of-fact
manner in which it’s spoken is chilling.
The film is centered on 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence)
and her family. Ree is the head of the household by default.
Her mother is mentally ill, and her never-seen father Jessup
is a bail-jumping meth cook facing a long stretch in jail;
she must raise her much younger brother and sister. It’s never
explicitly stated that she’s a dropout, but the longing she
manifests in an early scene when she takes her brother and
sister to school is haunting.
The plot is straight out of 19th- century melodrama—and so
is the poverty. Ree’s father has jumped bail, and the family’s
house and land are the collateral. She has one week to find
him before all is lost. The journey is a dark one, as she
faces not-so-veiled threats and actual violence. But as she
tells her brother (when he blanches at gutting a squirrel),
there are some fears you just have to get past.
Lawrence is astonishing, balancing youthful vulnerability
with a steely determination. The entire cast is impressive,
too, especially John Hawkes as her wounded, but still dangerous,
Bone is set in the Ozarks, but it really could be anywhere
in rural America; change the accent and it could be New York’s
Southern Tier or Adirondacks. The filmmakers get the gnawing
nature of rural poverty just right: The cobbled-together,
hardscrabble houses that don’t keep out the cold; the abandoned,
rusty vehicles that are used for parts; the suspicious, angry
people with guns a-plenty. Crucially, Winter’s Bone
shows us the heart of the contemporary rural criminal landscape,
where that abandoned shack on that gravel road is as likely
to hide a meth lab as a bunch of rusting crap. (And it’s probably
being watched by a very well-armed dude.)
Ree and her family may eventually find some measure of hope,
but the filmmakers don’t sugarcoat the ending. Rural America
is still on dope, and in deep trouble.