“2 Guns” Movie Review

     “Contraband” director Baltasar Kormakur re-teams with Mark Wahlberg in “2 Guns”, a middle of the pack late summer action film which benefits greatly from the screen presence of it’s two stars and a punched up script from writer Blake Masters.  While the action sequences are your run of the mill car chases and gun fights, the casting of Denzel Washington along side Wahlberg allows for a higher level of characterization than is normally seen in a film like this.  Both actors play off of each other well and each is given plenty of moments to shine with slick dialogue  and the chance to employ several mannerisms unique to each character.  By the end of the film, you feel as though you know these guys pretty well, even though the events they’ve just endured have been seen many times before.

     No doubt Masters’ script is heavily influenced by the criminal speak found in all of Tarantino’s writing, as the film opens with plenty of back and forth conversation between Bobby (Washington) and Stig (Wahlberg) in, of all places, a coffee shop.  The dialogue heard here is not unlike something Vincent Vega and Jules Winfield may have talked about in “Pulp Fiction” and as with that film, nothing here is to be believed as the story takes us along for one double cross after another.  Bobby and Stig rob a bank together, but for different reasons.  Neither knows the other is actually a law enforcement officer, Stig with U.S. Naval Intelligence and Bobby with the DEA.  When they discover the bank is loaded with much more than the $3 million they anticipated, both realize they may have been set up and thus their identities are revealed after an ensuing and inevitable confrontation.

     Both are then hunted by a low life CIA bagman named Earl, played with devilish wit by Bill Paxton.  Paxton’s character is the type who sits down those  he is interrogating and hits them with a rehearsed speech which both the unlucky prisoner and the audience know he has given many times before.  Earl’s speech is a play on the game of “Russian Roulette” with his own twist used to get the information he is seeking.  It turns out the money Bobby and Stig stole belongs to the CIA, but there is no shortage of interested parties looking to acquire the money at any cost.

     People involved in this mess include Bobby’s on again off again love interest and DEA agent, Deb (Paula Patton), Stig’s commanding Officer, Quince (James Marsden), and a high level Mexican drug cartel boss, Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos).  Each plays a central role in a web of deceit and double crossing, leaving Bobby and Stig unable to really trust anyone, including each other.  Of course everyone here seems to be working in a vacuum when it comes to their respective agencies as there is never anyone stepping in to ask questions or to back up their respective co-workers with the exception of Papi, who seems to have hundreds of Los Angeles Hispanic gang members on speed dial at a moments notice.  All of these lies lead to serious issues with the film’s plotting and lead to one preposterous event after the other.

     If you accept the story, you may disappointed by Kormakur’s choices in action sequences which either don’t fit the premise or simply don’t make sense at all.  Take for instance a situation where Stig claims their best bet is to go to his Naval base and tell his Admiral what has transpired.  This being a major U.S. installation, it is gate guarded by armed security police and is heavily fortified.  As the two pull up to the gate with no plan,  Stig decides to drive through the closed gate and lead the police on a car chase inside the base.  With the police hot on his tail, he actually makes it by car and then on foot to the Admiral’s mess hall before they catch up to him.  Meanwhile, Bobby is able to infiltrate the base and find his way to Stig’s dirty boss by finding a Naval Officer’s uniform that, you guessed it, fits him, hat, shoes, and all, as if he had a professional tailor!  Perhaps Denzel was trying to channel his inner “Crimson Tide” in an effort to remind us of the better films he’s starred in.  After a SWAT team makes entry and the building they are in explodes, both Bobby and Stig easily make it off the base, thwarting all attempts to catch them with their keen awareness and ingenuity. Yah, right.

     There are many scenes like this in “2 Guns” and if you buy into it, then so be it, but where the opening scenes began with so much promise, Kormakur runs out of ideas as the film moves into the third act and all we’re left with is a shoot out in the middle of nowhere that brings together, conveniently and predictably, all parties involved.  I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find out Kormakur was heavily influenced by Christopher McQuarrie’s 2000 film “The Way of the Gun” in that it’s narrative is similar and relies heavily on gun play.  If you’re looking for a film with snappy and memorable dialogue along with some of the best gun fight sequences ever captured on film, look there, because you won’t find anything of the sort in “2 Guns”.  Fortunately for the filmmakers, the casting department came through, as both Washington and Wahlberg are always fun to watch and keep this one semi afloat.  GRADE: C