2013, 109mins, 15
Director: Baltasar Kormakur
Writer: Blake Masters
Cast includes: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, Edward James Olmos, James Marsden
UK Release Date: 16th August 2013
“2 Guns” is a feature mired by problematic writing and a director who somewhat struggles to communicate the haphazard script accessibly, leaving the film’s narrative a fragile and needlessly messy disappointment. Yet, thanks to winning turns from Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, earthy violence and some cracking action scenes the movie manages to ascertain some worth as a guilty pleasure. “2 Guns” doesn't have much in the way of fresh ideas or aesthetic nuance, but it’s still a polished enough Hollywood fluff-piece, citing that with charismatic stars even the most depressingly cock-eyed of premises can be rendered watchable.
In a botched attempt to infiltrate a drug cartel, criminals Bobby (Denzel Washington) and Stig (Mark Wahlberg) learn they are each undercover operatives, tasked with bringing the other man down. Bobby is DEA and Stig ex-Navy, but when they come into contact with a mysterious $43 million bounty they find their respective employers turning hostile, revealing corrupt underbellies. Forced to join together on legitimate terms as outlaws, Stig and Bobby attempt to clear their names, with both agencies, an agitated crime baron (Edward James Olmos) and lethal, shadowy CIA enforcer Earl (Bill Paxton) breathing down their necks.
Last year director Baltasar Kormákur made his American directorial debut with “Contraband”, a lean and simplistic thriller that also utilised the star power of Wahlberg and choice action moments to good effect. The screenplay for that feature was thin, making it easy for Kormakur to translate the beats into a flowing mirage of images without much clutter or editorial disturbance. Unfortunately “2 Guns” is a little more sprawling (although no more unique), demanding that Kormakur play around with timeline jumps and a myriad of cartoony characters, none of which the helmer seems that comfortable with. Tonally and visually the movie is fine, with several tightly choreographed fits of gunplay, but you can feel the story getting away from the director with each progressing sequence. By the end “2 Guns” degenerates into a frazzled storytelling slump, Kormakur having surrendered control of the plot’s overly ripe machinations and incredibly standard genre “twists”. There’s just too much going on, a fault also of Blake Masters dumpy, jittery and over-stuffed writing, but it’s clear that the demands of the narrative are a bit beyond Kormakur at this point in his career. It might be advisable for the director to make a few more “Contraband” level products, leaving other more experienced folk to tackle this less-linear sort of popcorn cinema.
The casting is largely faultless. Washington and Wahlberg have a slick rapport, each sticking to type with cheeky confidence. At this point in their respective filmographies, these characters are cake; assembled through a variety of recognisable genre tropes – brought to life by both with knowing schoolboy swagger. Wahlberg in particular is in top gear here, pumping out a lively turn in tune with his ever increasing comic prowess. Washington has to endure a bumpy romantic subplot with a fellow DEA operative portrayed by Paula Patton (sizzling and beautiful in a pretty thankless role), but still taps into the machismo and screen presence which have made him an understated marquee star for the best part of two decades. Most of what works with “2 Guns” can be attributed to the fun-loving fellas at the picture’s heart, and the game support accompanying them. The highlight in that regard is a slimy, seedy and utterly unpredictable Bill Paxton, literally forming a striking, thoroughly R-rated character out of almost nothing.
“2 Guns” has nothing to say concerning the facile and unreliable state of Government, but tellingly it does harbour a pretty kick-ass Mexican stand-off denouement. At the end of the day that’s all Kormakur is really interested in, and he achieves his modest goals. “2 Guns” has the appearance and stylistic design of a capable Hollywood movie, adorning deserved amounts of attention upon its talented cast. It’s a product balanced entirely on razzmatazz and booms, allowing its so-so story to flitter away without a care in the world. It’s a passable work, although without Wahlberg and Washington I daresay the whole enterprise would be irredeemably rubbish.
A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2013