2 Guns (2013) / Action-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, language and brief nudity
Running time: 109 min.
Cast: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Edward James Olmos, Bill Paxton, Paula Patton, James Marsden, Fred Ward, Robert John Burke
Director: Baltasar Kormakur
Screenplay: Blake Masters (based on a comic book by Steven Grant)
Review posted August 3, 2013
2 Guns is a meat-headed buddy action comedy that sports a few twists and turns, and a smattering of solid yuks, but fails to truly connect due to Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur's (Contraband, The Deep) lack of understanding of the need for a character-led action movie to find some breathing room. It's a shame, because he has a quality cast, and a nifty plot that is worthy of an old Western, but he'd rather drive forward the testosterone-laden action sequences than give us any sense of genuine stakes for the thinly defined characters who are meant to be the tale's protagonists.
It's difficult to talk about the film's plot, as TV-scribe Blake Masters' ("Law & Order: LA", "Brotherhood") screenplay, based on a little-known comic book series of the same name, chooses not to reveal the nature of many of the characters until a good way through the film. Not that they are revelations, particularly; the story is painted in as it moves along as a device, mainly. The fact that one character likes to wear fedoras and the other likes to wink at ladies he finds attractive is something that is supposed to pass as character development.
What I can tell you is that Denzel Washington (Flight, Safe House) plays a guy named Bobby and Mark Wahlberg (Ted, The Fighter) plays a dude with the nickname of Stig, and the two are working together near the Texas-Mexico border to secure some drugs from a vicious Mexican drug lord named Papi Greco (Olmos, The Green Hornet). However, neither man is what they appear to be, even to each other. Things don't quite go according to plan, leading the two men to have over $43 million in their possession that a few different factions, some high up in the U.S. government, will kill to get back.
2 Guns is an action movie first, but most of its enjoyment comes through the back-and-forth bantering of its lead performers, reminiscent of a low-rent version of Lethal Weapon, if written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by John Woo on a day they felt like phoning it in. The two stars work well together, even if their characters are mostly empty vessels we never quite get a handle for. Some of the supporting characters, other than a fun Edward James Olmos, feel underused. Paula Patton (MI4, Deja Vu) supplies some eye candy as Bobby's sometimes-partner, sometimes-lover, but is mainly just a walking plot device and fodder for a semi-nude scene. James Marsden (Robot & Frank, The Box) and Fred Ward (Management, Sweet Home Alabama) fill roles that require virtually no star power whatsoever. And Bill Paxton (Haywire, Thunderbirds) delivers one of those "love it or hate it" performances as the scariest of the film's many moving parts. I like Paxton, but think he is in way over his head trying to be menacing in this one.
The big problem with the film is that it's all flash, style and kick-assery, and not much else. Kormakur drives each scene without any sense of subtlety -- the cinematic equivalent of trying to drive a small nail into a wall with a sledgehammer -- as explosions don't just blow up within a room, they are WMDs that knock out half of the buildings they are in. Not to spoil anything, but, contrary to the film's title, there are more than 2 two guns in the film. I'd be hard-pressed to remember a character out of dozens who doesn't have a gun, in fact. Not that this matters, except for the point that Bobby and Stig seem to be the only characters who know how to use them. Stig is even billed as a guy who, like Bullseye in Daredevil, 'never misses', and though thousands of rounds are directed toward them by machine guns and the like, it would seem that the only way they will ever be shot is if they shoot each other.
Another problem, though not quite as big, is that the plot full of crosses and double crosses is too serpentine for a film this simple-minded to support. Plus, it's so convoluted, that it would seem out of our best interest to follow anything but the gist for fear it will all fall apart. For reasons unknown, we start the movie in non-linear fashion, which might work if the opening scene raised an inkling of intrigue. But it doesn't, and as each character either reveals himself or herself to be a good guy or a bad guy, such developments are brought out without any sense of flair, and we wonder why we weren't just told who represents what from the get go.
Gun-porn enthusiasts and those who love the two leads may find 2 Guns to their liking, but I find it to be an initially promising buddy action vehicle that throws a lot of plot points out there that build up to a climax that doesn't pay off, even with a truly explosive money shot, literally. It's fine for spells, and not without merit, and yet it's all too much in style and too little in substance to see it as anything more than a forgettable junk food flick.
©2013 Vince Leo