I’m so glad to see that the very funny and surprisingly pointed The Other Guys has won the box office weekend in North America, earning $35.5 million this past weekend. (No insult to Inception, finally kicked out of the No. 1 spot, is intended, of course. And no insult need be taken, because the film dropped only 33 percent and has passed $227 million in all, indicating continued interest. Which reminds me that I must see it again soon…)
Part of the reason I’m glad to see the movie do well is because it’s not merely a silly comedy: it’s got some surprising bite behind its humor. I was more than a little stunned to see, running next to the film’s closing credits, a barbed animation illustrating how a Ponzi scheme works followed by — snarkily — graphics showing the cost of the Wall Street bailouts and comparisons with Wall Street CEO golden parachutes and a typical NYPD pension. Financial crimes do play a part in the film — Steve Coogan’s financier is the big baddie Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell have to bring down — but these end-credit cartoons seemed to represent a sudden sobering-up for the film. I hoped, at the time, that perhaps they would reach some Americans who might not fully appreciate the perfidy and the greed of the very rich, and how Wall Street almost derailed the United States. (Maybe it’s too soon to know, but maybe Wall Street has derailed the U.S. Here’s a horrifying breakdown of exactly what the Bush White House did to bail out Wall Street, and what the Obama administration continues to perpetuate.)
Here are those closing credits:
I think they’re awesome — I’m pretty sure my jaw actually dropped the first time I watched them. But not everyone is happy. Kyle Gillis at Business & Media Institute is unhappy:
New film Relies On Michael Moore-like Graphics Vilifying CEOs, Investors, Wall Street
Relies! It relies! And who could want to vilify CEOs? Oh noes! Won’t someone think of the poor Wall Streeters? It’s not like Wall Street was responsible for plunging the U.S. — nay, the Western postindustrial world — into financial ruin and long-term economic chaos.
Oh, wait: Yes, it was.
Gillis is livid:
[I]nstead of simply rolling the credits and letting viewers leave smiling, McKay followed with graphics criticizing Wall Street and corporate executives. It was almost as if Michael Moore filmed the closing credits, as graphics included the anatomy of a Ponzi scheme, the ratio of CEO to employee salaries, a comparison of the New York Police Department’s pension fund to an average CEO’s pension fund, an average worker’s 401(k) account compared to a CEO’s, and the amount of taxes Goldman Sachs paid after the bailout.
How dare anyone criticize Wall Street? How dare anyone alert ordinary taxpayers via a populist venue just how badly they were fucked by Wall Street and Washington?
But, oh, those nefarious end credits are not the worst of The Other Guys’ crimes against the fine upstanding citizens of Wall Street!
While the credits provided the most egregious anti-business attacks, there were other subtle pokes at business and Republicans within the film. For example, the villain, named David Ershon (whose last name rhymes eerily with ‘Enron’), is seen in a photograph with former President George W. Bush and is said to be friends with conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Other chides included Ershon stealing from both the lottery and the NYPD pension fund — essentially stealing money from the state and a labor union — and the villains’ drive SUV’s while the heroes drive a Toyota Prius.
Landon Palmer at Film School Rejects gets it (don’t read the full article at the link unless you want a major plot point of the film spoiled for you):
While others from the patrol gain a great deal of mileage out of schoolyard jokes regarding Det. Allen Gamble’s (Ferrell) areas of apparent lacking in this masculine ideal, he ultimately proves to be the only character who possesses the intellect and understanding capable of tackling something resembling a relevant and contemporary major crime….
As a marker for this transition and lack of understanding, Wahlberg’s Det. Hoitz acts as the film’s dumbfounded persistent questioner, continually quizzing Gamble as to where the drug money is when the crime committed has absolutely nothing to do with that antiquated TV-brand of inciting police drama – the real criminal war on the streets, The Other Guys proposes, is happening on Wall Street.
Palmer gets, too, how the credits sequence is not out of character with the rest of the film (as it may appear to be at first):
It’s this tension between cultivating a passive or active viewer that makes The Other Guys’ brand of satire both successful (being enjoyable both as a broad comedy while possessing satirical undertones) and yet startlingly out-of-place (the misguided idea that dumb comedy can’t or shouldn’t address relevant concerns, which makes the end credits – awkwardly executed or not – feel somehow like it overstepped its bounds).
Damn liberal Hollywood, telling people the truth and stuff.
I actually wished they had gone a bit further with that. It was really hard to tell what the financial malfeasance was during the film. They could have made it much clearer that Coogan’s character was running a Ponzi scheme and the film would have been that much more pointed.