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Wahlberg’s Cop Shoots Derek Jeter; Internet Porn King: Movies

The Other Guys,” a buddy cop movie starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, opens with a wild car chase through the streets of Manhattan that climaxes with one vehicle smashing into a tour bus.

Subtle, it’s not. It is funny, though, despite a convoluted plot and a weirdly serious turn in the closing credits.

Ferrell and Wahlberg, whose huge height differential makes them look like Mutt and Jeff, are underachieving New York detectives thrust into the spotlight after the department’s superstar tandem (Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson) take a fatal swan dive off a skyscraper.

Allen (Ferrell) is a nerdy paper-pusher who drives a red Prius, designs iPhone apps and loves the Little River Band. Terry (Wahlberg) is a tough-guy wannabe who once accidentally shot Yankees star Derek Jeter in the leg, costing the team a World Series title.

When Allen arrests a hotshot financier (Steve Coogan) for not having proper construction permits, it triggers an investigation into an embezzlement scheme involving billions of dollars. The odd-couple cops pursue the probe despite warnings from their boss (Michael Keaton), a harried dad who moonlights at Bed, Bath & Beyond and makes Allen carry a wooden gun in place of the real one he fired in the office.

Fly Like Peacock

Ferrell and Wahlberg have nice comic rapport, with Allen’s sweet-natured goofiness contrasting with Terry’s macho Napoleonic complex. (Frustrated by his mundane office duties, Terry tells his boss he’s a “peacock” that needs to fly.)

The movie is directed by Ferrell’s longtime creative partner Adam McKay, who previously worked with him on “Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights” and “Step Brothers.”

Like those films, “The Other Guys” rambles and some of the running gags -- involving Allen’s touchy-feely personality, his hot wife (Eva Mendes) and his former life as a college pimp -- are overdone. Still, the movie has plenty of laughs, at least until the closing credits.

With Rage Against the Machine’s hard-core cover of Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm” playing in the background, snazzy graphics cite a long list of recent financial debacles, from Bernie Madoff to AIG. Though the plot does involve white-collar crime, the reference to such serious matters at the end of a silly comedy struck me as bizarre.

“The Other Guys,” from Columbia Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: ***

‘Middle Men’

It’s no secret that pornography sites are among the most popular on the Internet. So how did that happen?

Answers can be found in “Middle Men,” a gritty drama about a strait-laced Texas businessman who becomes filthy rich running a computer-based porn empire in the early days of the Web. The film features sick humor, mobsters, murder, porn stars, bags of cash and a central character who narrates the story of his increasingly strange life.

That man is Jack Harris (Luke Wilson), a corporate troubleshooter and devoted family man who’s recruited by a crooked lawyer (James Caan) to help two eccentric geeks (Giovanni Ribisi, Gabriel Macht) smooth out problems they’re having with the Internet porn site they created on their home computer.

Russian Gangster

Before long, Harris finds himself involved with a Russian gangster, a 23-year-old porn star, the FBI and international terrorists. He becomes estranged from his wife and kids while sinking deep into a hedonistic lifestyle that puts them all in danger.

Though the story was inspired by producer Christopher Mallick’s experience with a pioneering Internet billing service -- figuring out how to get customers to use credit cards on the Web was a key to porn’s explosive growth -- director/co-writer George Gallo has created a mostly fictional world that borrows heavily from one of his heroes, Martin Scorsese.

Gallo, best known for writing “Midnight Run,” virtually copies Scorsese’s formula for “Goodfellas,” from the first- person narrative to the abrupt violence, wise-guy dialogue and classic pop soundtrack. All it lacks is Joe Pesci with a meat cleaver.

“Middle Men,” from Paramount Pictures, is palying in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle and Austin, Texas. Rating: **1/2


What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
(No stars)    Worthless

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Rick Warner in New York at rwarner1@bloomberg.net.

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