Before director/writer Adam McKay pivoted into populist screed’s against capitalism and political corruption in films like “Vice” and “The Big Short” he was largely known as one of the many “dumb comedy” directors working in Hollywood.
In fact, with major productions such as “Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights,” and “Step Brothers” he could almost be billed as THE dumb comedy director or certainly THE Will Ferrell director at least.
Those movies are certainly divisive amongst some filmgoers, as you either fall into the “turn your brain off and laugh” category or the “this is pure nonsense” crowd. I’m somewhat in the middle on all of it but one McKay/Ferrell vehicle provided a bridge between the “dumb comedy” years and his more serious satires of American politics and that movie was 2010’s “The Other Guys.”
Billed as just another parody of buddy cop flicks, “The Other Guys” is a comedy that still holds up pretty well by today’s standards. Mark Wahlberg in many ways plays an unhinged caricature of every tough guy persona he has ever played in detective Hoitz and perhaps more brilliantly Ferrell, as detective Gamble, is allowed to be the straight man of the duo for change, finding humor in a more subdued performance. Together they form a kinetic duo that play hilariously well off each other in a film that is rarely dull from start to finish.
“The Other Guys” takes some decent shots at the violent nature of cop culture from excessive police overreach in the film’s hilarious opening scene to cops’ shoot first ask questions later approach with detective Hoitz backstory involving shooting Dereck Jeter during game 7 of the World Series. In between more typical Ferrell comedy flare involving hot wives and ex-wives, hobo sexy orgies, and TLC references there’s a lot of pointed, tongue-in-cheek humor at the police that one can find great humor in.
It’s a descent satire of the cop movie and the culture around law enforcement on this alone but McKay’s real target isn’t the police so much as it is who the police aren’t going after.
2008 probably feels like eons ago to many of you at this point but it was the year I personally came of age. I had graduated high school, The Lakers were good again, “The Dark Knight” and “Iron Man” had just come out, I had hopes and dreams as I entered college at San Jose State and oh…the Great Recession had just started!
I’m not going to go into extreme detail here but our economy had it’s worse collapse since the Great Depression caused by the subprime mortgage crisis due to vast widespread failures in financial regulation, breakdowns in corporate governance, vast trading and over borrowing, housing bubbles bursting, and heads of businesses just vastly ill-equipped to handle their hubris in that moment.
Major businesses and banks were on the verge of collapsing and then at the last minute the US government passed a $700 billion, with a capital B, bailout to put them all back in the green.
Corporations like Bank of America, Citi Group, Morgan Stanley etc received between $10-$25 billion each for their struggles and were able to stay alive in the country’s ever worsening state. This was great, except 2.6 million average working-class people lost their jobs during this period, including my father.
By the way, a guy like Joseph Casano, an executive at AIG, got a $34 million bonus for helping lead companies such as his into the recession.
This is McKay’s real target in “The Other Guys.” The satirical cop humor is largely window dressing to draw audiences in to the theaters so that he can show all of them who the real criminals of this country are.
As the plot of the story starts to kick into full gear the more obvious culprits of a typical Hollywood cop movie are dismissed. Though Hoitz is convinced it’s more the usual cop movie style villains of “sex and drug traffickers” at first, Gamble slowly pieces together a plot of dastardly insider trading. What it ends up being is that the bad guy is really just a doofus hedge fund manager named David Ershon played comically by Steve Coogan who made one too many bad investments to bad people.
Ershon has put his people and the people he owes money to deeper into the red, not at all unlike the wealthy CEOs and bankers who messed up the country during the 2008 recession, and it has led him to take desperate action to get everyone’s money back. Ershon, of course, tries to get Hoitz and Gamble off his tale by bribing them in a variety of hilarious ways (one of the funnier sequences of the film) but eventually gets caught up with the SEC and those who prosecute white-collar crime (who are unsurprisingly also in bed with the people he owes money to).
Hoitz and Gamble continue on the case but find that taking on white-collar crime is…complicated to say the least but most importantly ineffectual as detailed in this scene.
The 2008 recession, wiped out millions of jobs, with rural parts of the country getting hit the hardest and in many ways still feeling the effects today. If you were a POC you were even more unlikely to not recover from the crash. Property values plummeted, student high education success rates dropped, opiod overdoses from “unemployment deaths” and many more awful things happened during this period of great economic distress.
And what happened to the folks largely responsible for causing this mess? They got a fat fucking payday and a dismissive finger wag largely by our own government.
“The Other Guys,” more or less, ends the same way. Despite putting away Ershon, the company he was swindling, who gambled their people’s money, was still bailed out by the US government. A real “happy ending” that is played as a dark, matter of fact, joke before the credits roll.
I graduated from college in 2013, tens of thousands in debt from student loans and trying to navigate a largely bereft job market where wages had largely not changed in as many years. In 2008 average rent cost about $850 a month, by 2013 it was $953, today in 2020 it’s $1,097. The average entry-level salary (for a clerical/ office professional) between 2008 and 2018 went from $46,886 to $45,882 showing a decrease in value.
If the fact that Jeff Bezos is worth more than some countries on this planet doesn’t make you infuriated alone I don’t know what will.
Btw Buffet’s net worth increased as well to $79 billion himself, in case you think it’s “unfair” to compare him to Bezos.
Sometimes I think the reason people aren’t angrier about this worldwide is 1) a bunch of us think we are all one hard working day away from being filthy fucking rich ourselves, one of the many great lies of capitalism and 2) many of us don’t actually know just how big a BILLION dollars is, so here let me help you all out:
With COVID in 2020 we’re seeing it all happen again, just as it did in 2008. Record unemployment rates, small businesses closing, evictions skyrocketing because no one can pay rent and all we got for it was a $1,200 band-aid (assuming you did get yours). Meanwhile billionaire slugs like Bezos and Elon Musk saw their net worth rise sharply during this period, hell even the fucking Lakers got a $4.6 million dollar “small business” loan (though they did return it…only after getting caught…).
The highest sum of cash ever stolen from a bank was $18.1 million (equivalent to roughly $30.1 million now) in 1997. These are the people cops and other “loose cannons” in popular actions movies are usually running up against. If you think stealing $30.1 million is a lot of money worth sending the cops over then $700 billion of our own tax dollars given to people who ruined the lives of millions of Americans should make you fucking furious. The only real difference here is one was made legal by our own elected government.
Adam McKay’s “The Other Guys” may be on its surface just another “dumb comedy” that mostly satirizes cops, but its villains are very real and unfortunately as American as apple pie. Under capitalism our labor only continues to get devalued every year (even the skilled positions), while the richest 1% of the human race only get fatter with their wealth. Things are only getting more expensive and the working man is getting priced out of more and more daily luxuries and even essentials. This way of life is not sustainable, especially for our environment which these dragons continue to plunder, and eventually we will need to actually hold our overlords accountable for letting it get this far.
If we don’t, they will continue to steal every penny in our pocket and bleed us dry until the next disposable drone can fill our place. If law enforcement won’t take this on, sooner or later we might have to…