2 GUNS (2013) review
written by: Blake Masters (screenplay) and Steven Grant (graphic novel)
produced by: Marc Platt, Norton Herrick, Randall Emmett, George Furla, Ross Richie & Andrew Crosby
directed by: Baltasar Kormákur
rating: R (for violence throughout, language and brief nudity)
runtime: 109 min.
U. S. release date: August 2, 2013
“2 Guns” is one of those summer movies that will take an audience by surprise, if they would only give it a chance. Its looks are deceiving though, coming across like a familiar black-and-white buddy comedy, something we expect from the likes of Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, two movie stars who usually exude cool charisma and effortlessly deliver clever banter in-between comedic (and often quite stylish) action sequences. Well, this violent and pulpy feature is that, but it’s actually much more entertaining than you’d expect. With its August release, one would assume this is yet another movie that is trying to quietly eke out with the studio hoping for the best. As it turns out, this could (maybe even should) be the best sleeper hit of the summer, providing a lesson to all those bloated blockbusters we’ve been force-fed so often this time of the year.
We meet bottom-level criminal Bobby Beans (Denzel Washington) and smart-mouthed muscle Stig (Mark Wahlberg) as they argue over breakfast. Not while the two are eating breakfast, but what breakfast food is the best. There’s a contagious joy to their effective back-and-forth that sets the vibe for the movie. What’s immediately noticeable is how fun it is to see these actors (who are usually too intense for their own good) relax a little and give their characters room to stretch a little as they find out where to take their roles. It’s an inviting opening that immediately hooked me, earning my attention for a movie I wasn’t too sure about.
On the Texas border, these two guns (as the transparent title suggests) are out to land a huge cocaine deal with Mexican drug kingpin, Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos), but when that doesn’t pan out, the two decide to rob the crime lord. Sounds outrageous and impossible, but that’s part of the allure for them. They think a small town bank holds $3 million of Papi’s riches, but they surprisingly come up with $43 million and they soon start to wonder who the money belongs to.
It’s a confusing situation for Bobby and Stig, but not as confusing as their true identities. They combative duo learn (at the same time as viewers do) that Bobby Beans is really Bobby Trench, a deep-cover DEA agent and Stig is actually Michael Stigman, an NCIS officer. As they learn that they’ve both been assigned to take down Papi Greco, they also begin to suspect that their respective organizations are corrupted. This precarious development has Bobby hesitantly maneuvering his way around his lover and handler, Deb Rees (Paul Patton, wonderfully channeling a not-so-typical fatale) as their superior (Robert John Burke) gets caught in the crossfire of a mysterious cowboy named Earl (Bill Paxton), who has an affinity for numbers and Russian Roulette. Meanwhile, Stig has to figure out a way to get his paranoid and dangerous superior officer Harold Quince (James Marsden) off his back, imploring help from Admiral Turwell (Fred Ward), who’s washes his hands to the whole debacle. All the drama and characters come to a violent head after a myriad of double (and triple) crosses finds cynical Bobby and eager blood brother Stig inevitably realizing they have no choice but to work together to get out of their multi-layered predicament alive and on top.
“2 Guns” is an adaptation of a graphic novel of the same name created by writer Steven Grant, best-known for his Punisher mini-series with Mike Zeck in the mid-eighties. So, what we have is one of those rare comic book movies that no one would believe is a based on a comic book. That serves as an eye opener to this not in-the-know on the numerous genres comic books can explore. Those who’ve known for sometime that comics are more than just spandex and capes will be happy to know that “2 Guns” is a movie that easily stands on its own, but can also garner interest in its source material.
Screenwriter Blake Masters (creator of the Showtime series “Brotherhood”) emphasizes Grant’s pulpy leanings and provides a script that recalls the likes of Elmore Leonard or Scott Frank. It’s a slightly convoluted story that smartly stops itself from getting too serious by providing some serious comedy. With writing this enjoyable it’s easy to see how such an assembly of talented actors came together for director Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur, who starts off subtly channeling Soderbergh and eventually unloads a conclusion that resembles a marriage between Sam Peckinpah and Tony Scott.
It’s not completely surprising that “2 Guns” is male-centric, but it’s somewhat unfortunate considering how Patton has proven she can more than hold her own in such an environment (as evidenced in “Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol”). It’s a little distracting that Patton is the only actor to get naked and that her character mainly serves as manipulation and motivation for the two leads. Despite that stereotype, she’s still as much of a highlight as the other supporting actors here, with Paxton being an expectedly hammy standout as an uncomfortable threat.
For fans of Washington and Wahlberg who may have grown tired of the actors playing variations of the same character with each project, “2 Guns” is a refreshing reminder of how they can still deliver the goods. Washington is good here, displaying a noticeably relaxed nature, but Wahlberg with his wise-ass comic timing, is great – actually, he’s hilarious. At times, he singlehandedly elevates the movie to something greater than what we expect. That’s not easy to do, but between him and Washington, they sure make it look that way.