Thursday, August 1, 2013

Movie Review: 2 Guns

At the center of 2 Guns is an interesting premise: Two criminals bite off more than they can chew during a bank robbery and as bad men come knocking for the money they stole, the bandits each realize that their partner in crime is actually an undercover government agent.

Unfortunately, the film never rises to meet it's own challenge. It's an amusing but ultimately lukewarm caper, which cycles through familiar territory and fails to present the viewer with a compelling case for they are sitting in a darkened theater watching the events unfold on the screen besides the air conditioned respite from the summer heat.

Part heist flick, part shoot-em-up and part whodunit, 2 Guns stars Denzel Washington as undercover DEA agent Bobby Trench and Mark Wahlberg as undercover Naval Intelligence officer Michael Stigman.

The two men, independently investigating the dealings of Mexican drug kingpin Papi Greco (Battlestar Gallactica's Edward James Olmos), are thrust together through circumstances that are never fully explained and are eventually led to the Tres Cruces bank where they believe Greco has stashed roughly $4 million in dirty dough.

But after hitting the bank and discovering far more green than they expected, the two boys realize they've been set up by their respective organizations and become locked in a multi-faceted scramble for the cash involving the aforementioned Mexican Cartel, corrupt government officials and their own distrust for one another.

The movie bets big on the interplay between its two stars, a gamble that for the most part pays off. Washington and Wahlberg engage in a series of bromantic tussles while firing off sarcastic jabs and ammunition with a sense of winking, plot-holes-be-damned nonchalance that keeps things lively throughout the welcome 90-minute running time. A few more minutes and the gags would have worn their welcome but director Baltasar Kormákur cuts the action off with aplomb and not a moment to spare after a climax that sees the various threads pulled together for a final Mexican Standoff, in Mexico.

It's an inevitable conclusion as the viewer is promised a final act where the warring factions collide and while it's not immediately apparent how things will wrap up, there is nothing particularly shocking or revelatory about its execution. The plot is neither predictable nor twisty – instead things just happen to characters you neither like nor dislike. In broader strokes, 2 Guns is not particularly good or woefully bad, it merely exists, which is more than can be said for a lot of recent Hollywood fare.

The supporting cast is a collection of not-quite-A-list actors thrust into one-dimensional roles that wear their motivations on their sleeves. X-Men's James Marsden is Wahlberg's obviously smarmy Navy superior and Ghost Protocol's Paula Patton is the untrustworthy eye candy and romantic foil.

Of all the cast members, it's Bill Paxton who is clearly having the most fun as a bolo tie-wearing government man who chews the scenery like a tender brisket and prefers Russian Roulette as his interrogation tactic of choice. His corrupt Earl reads like a cross between the backwoods vigilantism of Paxton's Randall McCoy and the oily petulance of Aliens' Private Hudson.

With Washington and Wahlberg, 2 Guns is an interesting pairing as each actor is coming off of a successful, modestly-budgeted winter thriller of their own with last year's Safe House (Washington) and Contraband (Wahlberg). Safe House opened in February and netted $126 million while Contraband (which shares both star and director with 2 Guns) opened one month earlier to gross $66 million on a $25 million budget.

Only time will tell how the R-rated 2 Guns fairs at the box office this weekend, but one can't help but wonder while watching if the "Where's My Money?" actioner would have been better suited to the cinema doldrums of the winter season. As it is, opening in early August during a season that has laid waste to nearly every piece of Hollywood spectacle, the relatively understated 2 Guns feels out of place: for better or worse.

Should 2 Guns prove the next victim of 2013's Summer of Flops we can all sit back and point yet again to the bombastic over-saturation of the marketplace, and should it succeed we'll have to endure the titular-absurdity of an inevitable sequel 2 Guns 2: Shoot 2 Kill.

In the end, 2 Guns does not demand to be seen but the low-fi action and winking banter of its leads makes for an un-ambitiously entertaining trip to the cinema.

Grade: B-

*2 Guns opens nationwide on Friday, August 2.

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