Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Writers: Blake Masters (Screenplay)
Stars: Denzel Washington (Robert ‘Bobby’ Trench), Mark Wahlberg (Michael ‘Stig’ Stigman), Paula Patton (Deb), Bill Paxton (Earl), James Marsden (Quince), Edward James Olmos (Papi Greco)
Genre(s): Action | Comedy | Crime
“A DEA agent and a naval intelligence officer find themselves on the run after a botched attempt to infiltrate a drug cartel. While fleeing, they learn the secret of their shaky alliance: Neither knew that the other was an undercover agent.”
As a reviewer, I do my best to avoid giving away any major spoilers that may potentially ruin that “magic” people embrace when experiencing something for the first time. I know firsthand just how much of a letdown they [spoilers] can be. If some information seems unavoidable, a “Spoiler Warning” label will be stationed at the beginning and end of said discussion, allowing readers to continue and/or skip ahead as they so choose. If you comment below, after the review, please be mindful of this and try to avoid any spoilers. If doing so, please make sure to label that a spoiler is coming up and when it ends in your discussion.
Make It Rain
As soon as I saw the main cast of 2 Guns I was excited to see it. I’ve long been a fan of Denzel Washington, and over the years I’ve grown more fond of Mark Wahlberg (who I’m always wanting to call Marky Mark — I wonder if he hates that?). Bill Paxton and Edward James Olmos being on the docket was just extra frosting on the cake. It's been ages since I’ve seen Paxton in a movie. Oddly, I wasn’t able to identify Edward James Olmos from the trailer. I’m only on season 2 of Battlestar Galactica (and never knew his name… I know, I’m slow), but I’m really good with faces, so once it clicked during the movie I was a bit giddy seeing him on the big screen.
From the synopsis, you are able to tell that this tale of money and corruption is nothing new. It gives the impression of being a buddy cop movie, and that's exactly what it is. In these movies, sometimes the two individuals get along from the get-go, while other times they are of conflicting personality types and clash. I want to say it’s definitely the latter for these two main characters, but believe it’s more of a blended balance. Both Bobby and Stig (played by Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg respectively) have their own quirks that grate on the other, but underneath it all you can sense a camaraderie from the beginning.
So what makes an overplayed buddy cop themed movie shine beyond a glaringly cliché plot?
As mentioned above, when seeing the cast I was “sold” and that was largely in-part to witness how well the chemistry between Washington and Wahlberg was delivered. Delivered it was. From the opening scenes, we are borne witness to the the witty, wise-cracking back-and-forth between their two characters. None of it is forced, it just flows and comes off as being completely natural. You are seeing two characters who have known one another for some time and it shows, you don’t question it. That chemistry between the two actors/characters only strengthens as the story progresses.
Denzel’s character Bobby — an undercover D.E.A. agent — is stoic and reserved, yet also very quick-talking and charismatic. He oozes smooth badassery in the sense of style and demeanor. Wahlberg’s character Stig — a Naval intelligence officer — on the other hand, is cocky, hot-headed, smart-assed, and flamboyant. He’s also smooth (or so he likes to think) in his own way. The opposing attitudes do well to quell one another and bring moderation when needed.
These two men undertake a heist that quickly goes sideways, as they always seem to (mental note to self: give up the notion of robbing a bank as a suitable retirement plan), and before they know it their seal-tight plan lands them in hot water. The money they stole didn’t belong to the cartel (headed by Papi Greco played by Edward James Olmos) as they thought, but rather the C.I.A. These circumstances unavoidably force them into working together, albeit begrudgingly, as they attempt to figure out where it all went wrong, why, and to do so before their newfound enemies kill them — or they kill each other first.
Along the way, interactions with the supporting cast reveal different facets of our main duo. When with Deb (Paula Patton), light is shed on Bobby’s past and what drives him, while scenes between Quince (James Marsden) and Stig explain the motivations of the latter and hint at some traits not readily apparent at first.
Where's the Money?
One of my favorite scenes (highlighted in the trailer) is between Bobby and Earl (Bill Paxton), a C.I.A. agent sent out to retrieve the stolen money. As soon as Earl comes into the picture you are exposed to what methods he is willing to take in order to get what he wants. I can’t help but imagine Paxton loved the role, as he pulls off being curt and intelligent underlined with shadowy sinews of sadistic satisfaction. He even has a thing or “schtick”, as they say, which just adds to his character a sense of realism.
Even while Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos) may be a generic cookie-cutter crime boss, his menacing presence is greatly enhanced by Olmos’s gravelly voice. He definitely looks and sounds the part. I do feel, however, that this was one major character that could have been a bit more fleshed out, or given more to offer in the film.
So the acting is sound all around, and if that doesn’t draw you in, the smooth pacing of the film — as it transitions between exposition, action, and comedic banter — and cinematography likely will. Not once did I feel the movie was dragging on, that scenes were added solely to fluff it’s runtime (109 min), or that I couldn’t tell what was going on due to shaky or shoddy camera work.
One point of interest [for me] was how the story was told. I was expecting a straightforward chronological unfolding of events, leaving me pleasantly surprised when this wasn’t the case. This sometimes can feel disjointed, but no worries, there is little chance of getting lost and confused. Each time there is a departure, the director (Baltasar Kormákur) has seamlessly added snippets that signal exactly when we are being caught back up to speed.
All this being said, though, there are a few areas I felt the film was lacking. For example, the soundtrack. During the trailer they play Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” and it adds a great feel, and seems to fit the story. Throughout the whole movie I kept expecting to hear it come blasting through the surround-sound and envelope me during one of the high-octane gunfights, but it never came. Research lead me to find that the song is in the movie somewhere as a cover by Bob Dylan. Either it sounds quite a bit different, or I was that engaged with what was on screen to take notice.
Either way, I don’t remember any of the soundtrack short of one song: “Two Against One” by Danger Mouse, Daniele Luppi featuring Jack White. I was pretty stoked to hear this song in the movie. So much so that I even leaned over to tell my date just how much I really liked it. Beyond that single track, however, the rest eludes me.
During the editing process of movies there seems to be a plague of unneeded or poorly done voice-overs. This holds true for 2 Guns. Periodically, we are given these pointless voice-overs and none of them offer anything to the movie. They are usually just simple, cheesy one-liners or even a single vulgar word. I’ve no idea why these are added into the film, but it really annoys me as you can blatantly tell — the voice or volume is just different and sounds out of place in the scenes.
Again, there is the lack of originality, but honestly you know that going into the movie. If you were expecting some thought-provoking, mind-bending film you obviously weren’t paying attention to the trailer. There's no New York Time’s best selling novel to pull its source material from. In fact, I never knew until the credits that 2 Guns is based on a graphic novel of the same name by Steven Grant of Boom! Studios.
2 Guns Are Always Better Than 1
The graphic novel pits the duo against the mob, so there are some deviations, but relatively the story sounds intact.
2 Guns won’t exactly be a contender at the Emmys, but if you are looking for a fun summer movie that offers a departure from the standard fanfare of superheroes and sequels then I would highly recommend checking out this movie. There is plenty of gunplay, plot twists, and banter to appease action movie fans of all levels. The chemistry between Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg alone makes the movie worthwhile and fuels enough comedic explosions to compete with literal ones placed sporadically throughout.
I give 2 Guns an OMN Rating of 6.75 Nuts
And just think, supposedly Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson were originally considered for the roles of Bobby and Stig respectively. Nothing against those two, but the movie would have been completely different, so see it while the seeing is good!
Pretty sure he's winking at you behind those shades...
2 Guns (8/2/2013):
The Cryton Chronicles OMN Rating: 6.75 Nuts
IMDB Rating: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 64%