Actors tend to form a niche with certain directors: Johnny Depp with Burton, de Niro with Scorsese, DiCaprio with Scorsese, Fassbender with McQueen. Will Ferrell’s formed one with Adam McKay, and after the strangely misguided weirdo that is Land Of The Lost, it’s good to see the two of them reunited (they both worked on hit comedies like Talladega Nights and Anchorman).
This time though, Ferrell steps into the shoes of a police accountant (who keeps insisting he’s a real cop) named Allen Gamble. He’s smart, has an inexplicably magnetic charm on gorgeous women, and only becomes an “account for law and order” because he thinks it’s a stable job (he used to be a pimp in high school). He’s partnered up with Mark Wahlberg — who seems abnormally short next to Ferrell — as a gung ho detective named Terry Hoitz, whose enthusiasm ironically gets him pushed to the sidelines simply because he accidentally shoots Derek Jeter. It’s also fun to see Wahlberg subvert his tough guy persona, especially the kind from 2006’s The Departed. Wait, he’s still a tough guy, but nobody in the movie cares.
At first look, Ferrell and Wahlberg seem like the two must unlikely guys to pair up for a buddy cop movie; one’s a whacky comedian and the other’s a muscular hunk of a former rapper. And it’s true, they are unlikely. But somehow they’re the most natural of on screen buddies and it’s a pleasure watching their bickering and quarreling evolve into something mature and funny.
They’re the other guys. The guys who occupy vacancies. The guys nobody really notices. Who are the main guys? Samuel L. Jackson and The Rock; a couple of pompous action-hungry cops who love a good battle — even if their targets are just petty thieves. They have a penchant for big car chases, opening fire without even bothering to seek cover, crashing their cars into buses and store windows, and happily taking the credit in the name of the law for all the destruction they cause. They begin the movie and I can safely say they give us the most fun. In less than fifteen or so minutes, the two of them had me in rolls of laughter and believing that they could be a real duo, and even though their deaths are hilarious, I was sad to see them exit. Because then the movie kicks into gear and sort of slips into formula.
Allen and Terry step up to replace their fallen officers and are immediately embroiled in a massive case that involves lost investments (numbering in the billions) and a sinister scheme to secretly reclaim the money. It becomes the common case of “I have a strong hunch that this guy is the baddy but I have no evidence to prove it, so I’m condemned and demoted, but I ultimately come out on top when my boss catches the baddy red handed”. It’s not original (almost all of the Rush Hour movies follow this pattern), but the unexpected chemistry between Wahlberg and Ferrell makes it all worth while.
But it’s also the movie’s secondary characters and subplots that give it a boost. Michael Keaton is perfect as the police captain Gene Mauch, who constantly references TLC songs (without realising it) and moonlights in a bed and bath wholesale company (which is a wonderful little addition). And Terry’s obsession with Allen’s attractive wife Sheila (Eva Mendes) leaves little questioning as to why Terry’s own relationship with his former girlfriend can never get back on track. There’s actually a lot happening in the movie, and for the most part, they work. While some comedies tend to stray off course by trying to inject as much humour and gags as possible, McKay manages to keep his insane police adventure under control without having to sacrifice the laughs.
Best Moment | Take your pick. There are many. Jackson and The Rock? Allen being more interested in the flavourful water he’s drinking than in interrogating Steve Coogan? “I don’t want no scrubs”? And it goes on and on.
Worst Moment | Probably Allen singing melancholic hymn-like jingles at the bar with Terry. I wasn’t quite sure what that was about, and the lyrics were kind of cheesy.