Director: Baltasar Kormakur
Writers: Blake Masters (screenplay), Blake Masters (graphic novel)
Stars: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Bill Paxton
Release date: August 2nd, 2013
Distributors: Universal Pictures, Entertainment One, Foresight Unlimited, TriStar Pictures
Running time: 109 minutes
Best part: Washington and Wahlberg’s chemistry.
Worst part: The excessive number of characters.
Have you ever heard the saying: “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Unfortunately, despite being a convincing resolution, it’s still exceedingly tempting to do so. However, something we could be so brashly judging may just catch us by surprise if we delved deeper. With a poster featuring two big-name actors, guns, helicopters, and flaming currency, it’s believable that 2 Guns could’ve turned out to be a forgettable, by-the-numbers action flick. Thankfully, it provides many effective kills and thrills along the way.
Elevated by an enthusiastic cast, ingenious action sequences, and crackling dialogue, 2 Guns may become 2013’s biggest surprise hit. In a year filled with sci-fi blockbusters, comic-book extravaganzas, and ultra-popular ensemble comedies, a standalone action-comedy like this is infinitely refreshing. It may not bring the buddy-cop genre back into the spotlight, but it’s an enjoyable example of what these movies can accomplish with the right resources. Similarly to our plucky heroes, this movie, unfortunately, may be overlooked in favour of significant financial rewards elsewhere. In typical action-comedy fashion, slo-mo, cheesy one-liners, and masculine characters kick-start the narrative. Burning down a diner to cover their infamous tracks, Michael ‘Stig’ Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) and Robert ‘Bobby’ Trench (Denzel Washington) believe they have set up the ultimate heist for the bank across the street. After getting close to grimy Mexican mobster Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos), the wisecracking duo pull off the robbery with seemingly flawless execution. However, their antics reel them into the CIA, DEA, and NCIS’ lines of fire. After each discovering their true identities and allegiances, Stig and Bobby must reluctantly work together to discover who their dangerous $43 million haul belongs to, while treading lightly to avoid Naval Intelligence commanding officer Harold Quince (James Marsden), DEA handler Deb (Paula Patton), and vicious badass Earl (Bill Paxton).
Since the late 80s and early 90s, buddy-cop movies and Quentin Tarantino knock-offs have come thick and fast. Aiming to be as memorable and entertaining as their influences, many crime-capers fail to deliver the emotional depth and visceral sensations required. Screenwriter Blake Masters, adapting Steven Grant’s Boom! Studios comic book, has delivered an appropriate and engaging mix of character development and wittily bombastic comedy. From the opening sequence, the movie delves into this convoluted plot and attempts to unravel its many intriguing strands. Here, the cards are dealt and played at opportune moments to keep audiences engaged. In this topsy-turvy narrative, our characters come across multiple twists and turns that throw them, and the audience, for a loop. In spite of its charms, the story wears out its welcome by the end of the second act. By then, too many characters, factions, and codes of honour have been set up and moved around the movie’s hostile environment. Despite the engaging personalities, each motivation and betrayal becomes increasingly silly and uninteresting. Also, despite its lightheartedness, 2 Guns takes an aggressive stab at government agencies. Depicting the CIA to be as despicable as the Galactic Empire, the movie’s message awkwardly fits into this otherwise diverting experience. Here, director Baltasar Kormakur (Contraband) takes leaves out of many books. Fans of men-on-a-mission movies like The Losers and The A-Team will savour 2 Guns‘ wavering logic and overt masculinity. Kormakur is also immensely infatuated with, and borrows ideas from, seminal action-comedies like Lethal Weapon and 48 Hours. Fortunately, the movie sizzles whenever the dialogue flows. Similarly to William Monahan and David Mamet’s material, each expletive-filled insult and intriguing anecdote efficiently sums up each scene’s value. Thanks to the kinetic rat-a-tat dialogue on display, lines like: “you never heard the saying: “don’t rob the bank across from the diner that has the best donuts in 3 counties”?” become spun gold.
“You never heard the saying: “never rob a bank across from a diner with the best donuts in three counties?”” (Bobby (Denzel Washington), 2 Guns).
Despite the third act’s excessive reliance on action set-pieces and stupefying plot-twists, the movie assuredly maintains an appropriate tone and solid pacing. Throughout this amusing buddy-cop movie, Kormakur throws everything he can at the screen. If you didn’t know this was a comic book movie, the slo-mo, tough-guy posturing, and distinctive character types will immediately fill you in on the details. Thanks to the punchy action sequences, 2 Guns adds up to the sum of its parts. Each set-piece ratchets up the much-needed tension and excitement. Before the last bullet is fired, Kormakur increasingly ups the ante with each gun-fight, explosion, brawl, car crash, and Mexican stand-off. In particular, the Point Break-esque bank heist sequence is enjoyable and climactic. Within this scene, the anticipation builds as one obstacle after another is encountered and conquered. Also, the car chase, in which Stig and Bobby frantically wrestle for control over one another, is pulsating and amusing. When it comes to the colourful and violent characters, the cast elevates this sorely conventional material. Like Tarantino’s array of seductive yet scummy anti-heroes, 2 Guns‘ characters sport many distinctive aesthetic and internal qualities. Definitively, the movie’s comic book-like cartoonishness comes from its wild personalities and frenetic stylishness. Washington’s hardened DEA agent role doesn’t stretch the actor’s immense talents, but his energetic screen presence still elevates the character. He brings his own pizzazz and charm to the role – sporting gold teeth, funky fedoras and a can-do attitude. Similarly, Wahlberg’s charisma boosts his been-there-done-that role. His character’s foul-mouthed/trigger finger persona provides many big laughs. Patton is stranded in a ball-busting (in more ways than one) yet two-dimensional role, and Paxton is enjoyably slimy as the amoral freewheeling villain.
From the snappy, insult-fuelled dialogue to the wacky action sequences, 2 Guns is significantly more intelligible and entertaining than exploitation-king Robert Rodriguez’ recent efforts. Washington and Wahlberg develop a substantial amount of chemistry despite the conventional material. There is one thing I can confirm without spoilers: there are way more than two guns in 2 Guns.