Dir. Adam McKay. USA. 2010.

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On a cold miserable Wednesday, and some convincing to my loyal girlfriend, and after watching a trailer of the film we went to a very empty cinema to watch something that promised a lot of laughs and hilarity. And as my girlfriend was feeling a bit under the weather I used the old cliche of laughter being the best medicine plus the timing of the screening was convenient.  I just wish that halfway through the production of this film, someone from the money men turned to each other and went I wonder what the script looks like. Because as is the norm about Will Ferrell/Adam McKay films, there is no scripted film per se - just a pick'n'mix of improvisation with sketch comedy.  The idea of a plot is meant to be there, and in this instance the Bernie Madoff role is played by Steve Coogan, a foriegner, so the fact that he is literally unAmerican makes him the enemy.

The film starts off as this inversion of the buddy cop movie, laughing at action movies that over indulgent and over the top (much like Bad Boys 2).  The cameos of Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, as two honored and decorated policeman who take city landscapes as their prisoner in the face of law and order - they are also shy of paperwork which they leave to 'the other guys' in this case Gamble (Ferrell) and Hoitz (badly cast Mark Wahlberg) - policeman with past history who will never trouble the spotlight. Hoitz wants to taste it, but Gamble a forensic accountant wants to sit at his desk and go home to his 'average' wife.

Initially, the chemistry between the two - Hoitz screaming at Gamble for humming reminds of the Odd Couple and you hope that the buddy movie cliche will arise and they learn to embrace each other's faults whilst cracking a big case.  Weirdly though, the filmmakers make sure Hoitz spends the entire film shouting and screaming ('I'm a peacock. Let me fly') just to be heard in an office that where he feels tarred with the same brush as Gamble, a man who believes a desk pop (shouting his gun in the office) is a means of being embraced into the office fraternity.  The emmasculation of him by giving him a wooden gun is funny but infantile.

Infantile is an appropriate word as some of the humour is childish to the point of them taking the first joke that came into the head.  The bad cop/bad cop miscommunication between the two of them as they interrogate Steve Coogan's evil businessman ('I'll give you both $10,000. It is not a bribe') is something I have seen before; a grown man yelling incessantly and trashing a room, and not the first time in a Ferrell film either.

There are funny moments but they all come in the first half of the film when it is still establishing characters and dynamics; the relationship and the banter between Gamble and Hoitz is put to the test by an exchange over Hoitz being a lion and not even eating him even though he is not in his food chain, when Ferrell comes back with an explanation faulting Hoitz's logic, the rambling becomes incessant and hysterical. The other hilarity comes from the casting of Eva Mendes as Sheila, Gamble's wife; the fun with the placing of the exotic Mendes with the not necessarily attractive Ferrell leaves Hoitz flummoxed and open mouthed (No, who are you, really?'), his disbelief leading to a sequence of extended laughs. These laughs are retreaden over the film and for most of the film that is it, jokes are rehashed and retold - the peacock gaff, the infatuation between Hoitz and his partner's wife, the Captain who keeps quoting TLC lyrics without realising (four times) and Grand Theft Auto gets a laugh. At times I was thinking, was this film written in the last year or were they throw away gags from National Lampoon Loaded Weapon. 

It had me laughing for 20 minutes, but soon enough it flags and by the end it struggles to reach a conclusion it fully deserves, but not without more chases and action sequences which bring it back down to Cop Out's level. Maybe police work just is not meant to be funny.

Jamie Garwood

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