August 01, 2013

2 Guns

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A movie review by James Berardinelli



2 Guns

THRILLER:

United States, 2013

U.S. Release Date:

2013-08-02

Running Length:

1:49

MPAA Classification:

R (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Content, Nudity)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

2.35:1

Cast:

Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, James Marsden, Edward James Olmos

Director:

Baltasar Kormakur

Screenplay:

Blake Masters, based on the graphic novels by Steven Grant

Cinematography:

Oliver Wood

Music:

Clinton Shorter

U.S. Distributor:

Universal Pictures

Subtitles:

none


Fast pacing and a high energy level can cover a lot of sins, and nowhere is that more evident that in 2 Guns. The storyline contains some ridiculous elements and the climax is more like a coalescence of chaos than a legitimate conclusion, but it somehow works more often than not. The movie is loud, fun, quick moving, and features some nice acting turns by Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. Director Baltasar Kormakur's penchant for the offbeat (he's the Icelandic filmmaker behind 101 Reykjavik) is on display. Although Tony Scott is no longer with us, this feels like the kind of film he might have championed.

2 Guns is about a pair of undercover agents, neither of whom is aware of his partner's real identity. Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington) is DEA and Stig (Mark Wahlberg) is Navy Intelligence, but each thinks he's paired up with a legitimate crook. Their mutual goal is to take down cartel lord Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). Their plan to do this, which is never fleshed out in such a way that the audience can fully understand it, has something to do with robbing a bank where Papi's money is supposedly stashed in safe deposit boxes. After the robbery takes place, however, it comes to light that the stolen money belongs to the CIA and their enforcer (Bill Paxton) wants it back. Additional complications occur when Stig's commanding officer, Quince (James Marsden), decides the money should be his and when Bobby's ex-girlfriend, Deb (Paul Patton), becomes involved.

The relationship between Bobby and Stig falls into the tried-and-true category of mismatched buddies. The chemistry between Washington and Wahlberg is adequate but not spectacular. These two won't go down in the annals of great screen pairings alongside the likes of Hope and Crosby or Lemon and Matthau. For that matter, they're not even up there with Pulp Fiction's Travolta and Jackson. But they'll do in a pinch. The villains are suitably cartoonish - that applies to Bill Paxton's Earl, Edward James Olmos' Papi, and James Marsden's Quince. None exudes much menace even when they're doing extremely nasty things. Then there's Paula Patton's Deb, who's more of a plot point than a character. Her big moment of self-reflection comes across as scripted and not terribly believable, although the character's shortcomings are at least in part counterbalanced by a great scene of titillation.

The action is over-the-top although, when one considers the excess of films like Fast & Furious 6, it seems restrained. I guess the bar has moved. At any rate, Kormakur has a knack for keeping things lively and 2 Guns' sense of humor is certainly offbeat. There's a snap-crackle-pop to the arguments between Washington and Wahlberg that prevents that relationship from becoming stale. However, since there's not much in the way of genuine antagonism, it's never in doubt where things are going to end up.

2 Guns shouldn't be confused with anything more serious or high-minded than what it is. It's not intended to be a hard-hitting drama or an edge-of-the-seat thriller. In fact, it's more about the fractious yet fraternal relationship between the characters with the plot playing second fiddle. There are chases and shoot-outs and explosions but none of these are in any way extraordinary. There's fun to be had in watching how Bobby and Stig survive a variety of seemingly inescapable mini-cliffhangers, including a literal Mexican stand-off and something involving a pissed-off bull. The elements gel well enough to make 2 Guns an enjoyable cinematic experience but it's not the kind of movie likely to be remembered with clarity once the ride home is done.

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