Dissecting 2 Guns

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2 Guns is coming out at the tail end of the Summer movie season, but it is one of the more fun and straightforward entries with great turns by its leads, Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.

Zac: Based on a series of graphic novels, 2 Guns is a fast paced and fun little crime film that avoids getting overly convoluted and plays to the strengths of its stars. A pair of seemingly small time crooks, Washington & Wahlberg, are dealing with a big time drug dealer south of the Texas border, but when a deal doesn’t quite go the way they want it to they decide to rob his cash holdings north of the border. The only catch is that there is a lot more money than the three million they expected to find, which brings a whole mess of people after the $42 million they actually steal from the bank.

*****Spoiler Warning For The Rest Of The Article*****

Now that might not sound like the most original concept, but the simple setup allows for the film to tell a mostly straightforward story that just tries to have fun as it jumps between twists and set pieces. I mention mostly straightforward because the film would probably seem way too convoluted if you were reading it off a piece of paper, but director Baltasar Kormákur does a fine job of keeping things both believable and coherent all the while allowing things to get rather silly.

Lauren:  Now that we’re in the spoiler territory, though I think the trailers more or less beat me to it, this film can also be compared to Mr. and Mrs. Smith because there is far more going on beneath the surface as these two leads are actually working for two different government organizations, and they decide to fight together to get back at them once their respective work buddies screw them over.  Now I know the bare minimum about the DEA and Navy, or the CIA for that matter, and this film definitely sets them up to be horribly corrupt organizations if you want to think about it that way.  But don’t waste the time trying to find some social commentary.  2 Guns is just meant to be a good time.

Like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, one of the factors that I didn’t really expect to come into play as much as it did is the comedy, even more so than the action at times.  I’ll blame these expectations on the star power because of a lot of the roles I’m used to seeing them in, but they brought so much more to this buddy cop action fest than I ever thought to expect, or even hope for.  Who knew Wahlberg could be so hilarious!?  I knew he had some comedy talent in him, but this is probably one of my favorite roles he’s ever played because he seems to be having so much fun as this overly enthusiastic bulldog walking around with his chest puffed out and enjoying every second of it.  Remember when he played a cop with Will Ferrell?  Well forget that (other than the tuna vs. lion quote).  Ok, don’t forget that if you actually liked The Other Guys, but I will let go of those memories and fill all that empty space with the desire to see more Wahlberg and Washington fighting crime.  I doubt this will ever happen even though the ending allows for it, but I can just imagine all the trouble those two are getting themselves into, and it is awesome.

Zac: I like The Other Guys! Wahlberg has always had the comedy chops and he finds a nice balance here. Washington is someone who I would love to see do more comedy.  He is still funny here, and is often given a number of bad ass comedy lines in his movies, but for once I just want to see him be silly for 90 min. This isn’t what we get here, but Washington, like the rest of the cast, knows what kind of movie he is making and the tone is all the better for it. I maybe wish the film had a little bit more of an edge, but at the same time that might have thrown things a bit too far off balance. And that is what makes the film so easy to watch, just a great balance of character, action, plot and comedy that are all done almost unreasonably well for a film in the summer.

The character work in general was very strong as most everyone got at least one little character beat that really let us into who we are dealing with here. Even people that pop up for one scene seemed to be realized characters and that helps us connect with the drama, comedy and tension that unfolds around them. Bill Paxton was the particular standout for me here, as he seems to just be having a blast as the nastiest villain in a film full of them. He gets these menacing little speeches sprinkled throughout the picture, and it was a shame he doesn’t show up much after he sends Denzel out after the money.

Lauren: Well he was probably out extorting money from other criminals south of the Mexican border. At least I think he was south… I did get a little confused sometimes about whether we were in Mexico or Texas, but I could be alone in that department.

The characters were pretty great all around, but Paula Patton doesn’t get to revel in the complement of this one. All she did was show her boobs, talk in that husky voice, and mess with her ring. What the heck was up with that ring? It seemed like it got more meaningful screen time than she did so I was expecting it to contain the secrets of the universe. Or at least a cyanide pill. I guess seeing it again lead Washington to where the money was stashed, and if so, that is definitely the worst plot point in the film. But more than that ring, I was just unimpressed by this character. She’s willing to screw the guy over that she’s sleeping with, but when things get rough she completely breaks down and loses the opportunistic characteristic that got her in that mess in the first place. It’s not like we were going to feel bad for her as she weeps about what she’s done and her imminent death. Heck, I was secretly rolling my eyes at Washington for trying to save her in the first place. Maybe had that relationship been built up a little more, but I would have just let Edward James Olmos have her.

Then again, going back for her did help set up the final shootout, so I guess she wasn’t good for nothing. She was just good for next to nothing.

Zac: You are right about her for the most part, though I don’t know if you will find many guys complaining about the sex appeal she brought to the movie. Still, I’m with you in that a strong female character could have been a nice wrinkle to the picture and I think it was mostly the writing’s fault, not so much Patton (she was a badass in MI:4 just a couple years ago). I read her final moments as less of a breakdown of weakness and more as resigning herself to her impending death, but a more fleshed out relationship between her and anyone (Marsden or Washington in particular) would have helped elevate the film further. Marsden is short changed as well and it is a shame I always find myself feeling that way about this actor I like so much. In actuality we didn’t even need all of these double cross twists and reveals with Patton and I would have much prefered her just becoming the third gun for the sequel. Then again, I’d probably be more on board with the betrayal if it was better realized.

The set pieces in the film don’t have this problem, though, as they rarely cheat at getting these guys out of some seriously ridiculous situations. Yeah, they should have been wasted in the first couple beats of the final shoot out, but Wahlberg getting away from Marsden and crew in the desert and Washington surviving the blast doesn’t cut corners and smartly put in all the pieces for us to believe the action they throw up on the screen. (See Red 2 to understand how cheating at every turn can ruin a picture.)

Lauren: Aw don’t say that, I was planning on seeing Red 2 tomorrow. Helen Mirren is all the woman I need in my action films. And she keeps it classy.

Zac: There are so many better movies you’ve missed, Helen Mirren is barely in it and it is a bad, bad film. Don’t see Red 2.

Lauren:  Well if that doesn’t pan out, I can always follow it up with another viewing of 2 Guns because it has a lot of the same qualities I loved with Red; it will be like the adopted child with slightly less intelligence and creativity when it comes to storytelling.  So thank goodness for the characters. Except for Patton… Even the garage door light has a more believable relationship with Wahlberg than what we’re given between Washington and Patton. But things like that light are what made me like the movie so much, so I’ll take more of that anytime.

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