Tuesday, August 6, 2013

In Theaters: 2 GUNS (2013)

(US - 2013)

Directed by Baltasar Kormakur.  Written by Blake Masters.  Cast: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Edward James Olmos, Bill Paxton, James Marsden, Fred Ward, Robert John Burke, Greg Sproles, Patrick Fischler, Azure Parsons, Ambyr Childers. (R, 110 mins)

We don't get nearly as many buddy/action movies of the 48 HRS/LETHAL WEAPON sort as we did back in the '80s and '90s...you know, the wisecracking, foul-mouthed, excessively violent sort of actioner where two mismatched heroes have to set aside their differences while still constantly busting one another's balls to take on a common enemy...if they don't kill each other first!  2 GUNS is that sort of movie, and while it's not creative in the slightest, it's a likable diversion and a nice change of pace in a summer filled with too much CGI destruction and superhero burnout.  It speaks volumes about today's Hollywood that something this clichéd feels like a breath of fresh air.

Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg are, respectively, Bobby Trench and Stig (why wasn't this called TRENCH & STIG?), two mid-level criminals trying to set up a coke deal with Mexican cartel boss Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos).  Papi's feeling some heat and isn't transporting any coke, so an irate Stig decides to steal the $3 million that Papi keeps in a safe deposit box in a bank in a small Texas town near the border.  Stig doesn't know that Trench is an undercover DEA agent who's spent three years infiltrating Papi's organization, and Trench doesn't know that Stig is a disgraced Naval intelligence officer, working for his C.O. Quince (James Marsden) to obtain Papi's cash to fund secret, off-the-books Naval operations.  Trench and Stig blow up the bank vault and are shocked to find not $3 million, but $43 million that Papi insists is not his, setting off a war between the DEA, the Navy, the CIA, Papi's soldiers, and crazed assassin Earl (Bill Paxton), who represents the owners of the extra $40 million, a crew that even the all-powerful Papi fears, as Trench and Stig find themselves pursued and on the run, forced to set aside their differences and work together...if they don't kill each other first!

2 GUNS doesn't put forth a lot of effort and gets by primarily on the chemistry of the two stars, who seem to enjoy playing off each other.  Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur (who also directed Wahlberg in last year's CONTRABAND) does his job with a minimum of flash and style, keeping the action brisk and the insults flying in a film so formulaic that you almost expect it to already have the TNT logo in the lower right corner of the frame for the duration.  With a less enthused cast, it probably wouldn't have worked, but Washington and Wahlberg play this perfectly, and sometimes a dumb action movie comes along at the right time and just fits the bill.  The stars get solid support from a strong supporting cast, which also features Paula Patton as Trench's DEA partner and ex, Robert John Burke as Trench's boss, and Fred Ward as an Admiral.  In the end, 2 GUNS is only slightly less generic than its title, but it's fully cognizant of what it is and concentrates on its strengths.  It's rarely plausible and the biggest impact it will have from a pop culture standpoint will likely be a couple of topless Patton shots causing the Mr. Skin site to crash, but it's fast, funny, and entertaining, and at this point in the summer, that works just fine.

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