Starring: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Screenplay: Blake Masters, Steven Grant
Action/Comedy/Crime, Rated: R
Running Time: 109 minutes
Release Date: August 2, 2013
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)
Well, Greg, we just saw not one, but 2 Guns.
Yes, it’s the summer doldrums of August. Let’s recap yet another Denzel Washington buddy cop movie.
2 Guns introduces us to two bad dudes, Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington) and Stig Stigman (Mark Wahlberg), who are arrested at the Mexican border after meeting with a major drug lord named Papi (Edward James Olmos). During the interrogations, we learn that unbeknownst to Stigman, Trench is a DEA agent looking to acquire evidence to arrest Papi. And soon after that, we learn that unbeknownst to Trench, Stigman is an undercover naval intelligence officer who is also looking to set up Papi.
The two want to steal Papi’s three million dollar stash which he deposited in a small Mexico bank. They blow all 32 self-deposit boxes in the bank only to uncover over 42 million dollars! It turns out Papi isn’t the only bad guy in town. No, the CIA has been blackmailing all the local drug runners – taking a nice 10% cut off the top with threats of raining Blackhawk nightmares down upon them if they don’t comply.
Meanwhile, Stig has turned the stash over to his dirty commanding officer in Navy intelligence. But the evil CIA brass wants his money back. And Papi has kidnapped Bobby’s girlfriend – holding her hostage until he returns the money to him. Now, the clock is ticking as unlikely hero-buddies Stig and Bobby do what has to be done to save the girl and resolve a Mexican standoff.
Greg, this movie started out with a promising premise. Two buddy villains are each hiding their true law-enforcement identities from the other. There is strong mutual dislike, and they even try to harm each other, but of course circumstances compel them to team up and become reluctant buddy heroes in order to defeat the villains. This is all great set-up, but unfortunately the movie fails to evolve into anything special.
My sense is that this movie was rushed into production. There are some memorable scenes and instances of solid writing here and there, but too often we encounter old formulae and silly cliches. Apparently, the screenplay writers were just prone to bizarre mental lapses. For example, in one scene Trench is on a military base and is trapped in a building surrounded by hundreds of military personnel intent on getting him. It looks like there’s no possible way out. But he has an idea. He finds a naval officer’s uniform, puts it on, and walks right out undetected. Scenes like this left me utterly exasperated.
Scott, the premise is that the Navy, CIA, and DEA are all descending on this small Mexican town, each looking to take advantage of the backwards drug lords. If you let that go and enjoy the film you will have a shot at a good time with 2 Guns. However, every time there is a confrontation between one of the bad guys and one of the heroes, the bad guy makes the decision to let our heroes go! It’s beyond comprehension and caused me to feel that there was no point to the film. It was just situation after pointless situation that was resolved by letting our heroes walk away to solve the main goal of the film: finding the money.
Yes, when the bad guys kept capturing our heroes, and then letting them go, it was a “Houston, we have a problem” kind of moment. At the same time, 2 Guns has some positive things going for it. Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg enjoy a nice chemistry together, and I found myself genuinely liking them and rooting for them to defeat Papi, who himself is a commendable villain.
But when all is said and done, 2 Guns is a run-of-the-mill action flic without a whole lot of depth or originality beyond its promising premise. I award this movie 2 Reels out of 5. In terms of heroes, I didn’t see much character growth and development, or mentoring, or many of the elements of the hero journey. So I give the film 2 Heroes out of 5, too.
This looks like another attempt to attract two audiences: older folks who appreciate Denzel Washington and younger folks who appreciate Mark Wahlberg. And in that sense it succeeds. (A similar attempt was last year’s Safe House with Ryan Reynolds and Denzel.) Both men are hunky and bring their own wit and charm to the screen. But there isn’t much for either man to do in this film. The buddy relationship is crudely written and individually they are cardboard cutouts of what you’d expect from an odd couple (see our review of The Heat for a female buddy cop movie). I’m with you, Scott. 2 Reels for entertaining us with chases and banter, and 2 Heroes for a typical buddy cop relationship.