In "The Other Guys", which hits theatres today, funny man Will Ferrell is back on form. A classic mismatched buddy comedy, Ferrell plays Detective Allen Gamble, a forensic accountant, who’s paired off with fellow Irish American actor Mark Wahlberg, making this a macho and milquetoast combo that's about as combustible as it sounds.
But it wouldn't be a Ferrell flick if there wasn't something richly subversive going on just beneath the surface.
On the surface "The Other Guys" looks a typical cop drama, but it has some surprisingly pointed things to say about America's real villains and in the process it manages to trip up the never ending stream of macho blowhards that populate shoot em' up dramas.
For Irish American audiences the scene set in a Manhattan Irish bar will really sell the movie. Involving writer and raconteur Malachy McCourt (brother of the late Angela’s Ashes writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Frank McCourt) it’s a gentle send up of Irish traditional sessions that Ferrell and Wahlberg play flawlessly.
'A lot of times these movies we'll think of scenes that don't really have anything to do with the story, ‘ Ferrell tells Irish Central. ‘One idea I had was what if we establish that once a week my character goes to an Irish pub to sing rebel songs. (We chose Peter McManus' Irish Pub in Chelsea).’
‘I'd just seen something on TV about Ireland where there was a traditional session and everyone was looking down at the ground and each singer took a turn, you know the deal. So we decided to have my character singing Irish songs and the joke is that in between these moments when he's discussing crucial plot issues with his partner.’
At first glance "The Other Guys" is a classic odd couple relationship. But then it manages to surprise you with a fresh approach to that over-familiar concept. ‘We knew that genre is so played out and we wanted to make it fresh,’ says Ferrell. ‘That's where the whole idea of tying it to a major financial crime makes it relevant. And the fact that that's what these guys are trying to track.’
There’s another good reason for making Ferrell's character an accountant. ‘We hear about all these financial crimes but we don't always understand them. For every Bernie Madoff we find there are a hundred other guys out there still doing it. We wanted to speak to that and satirize it.’
‘But I really didn't want it to be one guy is the tough guy and one guy is the nerdy guy. I wanted my character to have a backbone and I wanted Mark's character to be someone who's dealing with his feelings and his anger. That's what makes it original. We're messing with the form of what you expect to happen. That's what makes it quite fresh feeling.’
Meanwhile Ireland and the Irish are never far from Ferrell’s mind. In 2008 University College Dublin presented him with the James Joyce award for comedy (Ferrell, who took to the stage in an Irish rugby kit, was thrilled).
‘We go to Sweden every summer because my wife is Swedish. Outside that I think Ireland is the country I've been most to in Europe. I've been six or seven times. The last trip I toured around with my brother and my Dad for two weeks and we ended with the James Joyce award. I can definitely feel my level of notoriety has risen there to the point where we would pull into the smallest town and I'd get recognized.’
It was a Derry man who took Ferrell's exchanges with the Irish public to a new level. Ferrell explains:
‘We were up in Derry which was so cool to see; I’d never been to Northern Ireland before. So I was standing on the street there waiting to cross at the lights when I noticed a driver was staring at me. I wondered if I'd done something wrong and he rolls down his window and shouts: 'Hi, Will Ferrell?' And I say yeah and he shouts: ‘What the f--k are you doing here?’ like he was mad at me. He couldn't believe what he was seeing.’
Ferrell also enjoyed the opportunity to explore Ireland’s tradition of fine whiskey distilleries.
‘We heard there was a radio contest tracking where I was turning up in the country. Where’s Will? It was so funny. When we toured Midleton distillery outside Cork (where Jameson whiskey is produced) because we're big fans of their whiskey, we heard that the story was I was there with Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson (the three starred in the 2003 hit Old School). The story spread before we knew about it.’
Meanwhile tonight in "The Other Guys" Ferrell is sticking to the villains of Wall Street, a scenario he's comfortable with.
'It's fun through the veneer of comedy we can take a shot at real targets. Like when we visit the FCC and satirize the place. Then it's comedy and commentary, which is always nice.'