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2 Guns Review

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It's nothing new, nothing original

by Casimir Harlow Aug 20, 2013 at 1:31 PM

  • Movies review

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    2 Guns Review
    Although treading distinctly familiar buddy-buddy territory, Icelandic actor/director Baltasar Kormakur's adaptation of the comic miniseries of the same name, 2GUNS (itself a riff on the classic 1973 Walter Matthau thriller Charley Varrick), remains breezily entertaining largely as a result of a sextet of character actors doing the utmost with what little they have; headlined by Mark Wahlberg and the ever-dependable Denzel Washington. It's nothing new, nothing original, and it probably doesn't even reach the standards set by the fun, guilty-pleasure that is Tango & Cash, let alone the genre-defining Lethal Weapon series to which it ultimately aspires - but the witty banter, sporadic drama and intermittently engaging action will easily hold your attention for the duration.

    You probably don't need to know anything about the strangely convoluted but still flimsy plot (which starts in medias res, using every trick in the book to hook you in); the poster sums it up quite succinctly. Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg play undercover agents Trench and Stigman - from the DEA and Naval Intelligence, respectively - who, unaware of each other's true identities, proceed to rob a bank where a local Mexican Cartel boss keeps his cash. Everything goes smoothly - a little too smoothly - and it's not long before the reluctant partners find themselves on the run from three Government agencies and the Mexican Mafia to boot.

    Believe it or not, 2GUNS was originally planned as an action-comedy for Wedding Crashers duo Vincent Vaughn and Owen Wilson. Considering their latest lacklustre reunion, The Internship, I'm kinda glad that this never happened, but it makes interesting food for thought, especially when you consider that the source comics were a fair bit funnier and more light-hearted than the final film script. I'm not complaining though: this is about as funny as you ever want a Denzel Washington film to be.

    Probably the best all-round actor in the business (averaging Box Office pull, critical and commercial success, charisma, presence, versatility, volume of output and just sheer cool), Washington's projects are never less than entertaining, and 2GUNS certainly doesn't break that tradition. Indeed he's so reliable that, over the last decade - which has heralded over a dozen films from him - I don't think there's a single one I've hesitated to see at the cinema based on his name alone.

    I'm sure, with Washington involved, some rightfully expected it to be better than this but, by the same token, without him, it could have been a hell of a lot worse. He infuses every single role with seemingly effortless charm and sheer presence: his undercover DEA agent easy to get behind and root for. Indeed one can easily draw parallels with last year's two-player thriller Safe House - where he teamed up with Ryan Reynolds - and, even though that was, surprisingly, a far more substantial role, it's almost a relief to see him play an outright hero for a change, rather than his usual anti-hero. Hell, of all the 80’s TV series adaptations that Hollywood has pillaged, his upcoming Big Screen Equalizer adaptation (due for release around this time next year) is one of the few that I have high hopes for.
    Believe it or not, Mark Wahlberg - reuniting with the director after he starred in Kormakur's remake of his own movie, Contraband - actually manages to easily hold his own as Washington's partner-in-crime, bringing a huge amount of energy to his character. He may not be as cool, but he sure knows how to have fun, and his frenetically speedy line delivery makes even the flattest dialogue spring to life. They make a great pair, and carry almost the entire movie on chemistry alone.

    Completing the sextet of key characters, Paula Patton (gorgeous in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, and reuniting with Washington after Deja Vu) ramps up her sex appeal as a DEA colleague/love interest working under Robert Burke's (Dust Devil, Safe) DEA boss; Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner, Battlestar Gallactica) grizzles his way through his Mexican Cartel crime lord role and James Marsden (X-Men, The Box) revels in his rogue Navy Intelligence Officer role. But it's Bill Paxton (True Lies, Aliens, Haywire) who threatens to steal the show as the mysterious Texan enforcer who has his own, far more effective, Russian Roulette interrogation technique. Older and more seasoned, Paxton's long-jettisoned the more skittish roles he made his name on, and now his addition to a cast roster brings with it an air of mystery; can't wait to see what he has to offer in Cruise's upcoming sci-fi actioner, Edge of Tomorrow (FKA All You Need Is Kill).

    Whilst there's more blood, violence and even nudity than I really expected from what - per the trailer - looked to be such a lightweight affair, 2GUNS struggles to do anything particularly different when it comes to the action, which, more often than not, has a distinct video-game feel to it. Sure, there are a few nice touches, but the gunfights - in particular the elaborate Mexican standoff finale - could have been better-staged. Even if it was never going to be Butch Cassidy - or The Wild Bunch - in terms of climax, there was room here to go down the engaging body-dropping finale route of, say, Walter Hill's Extreme Prejudice. Unfortunately, as competent as he is at stylishly capturing the drama, Kormakur doesn't quite have as good a handle at staging the action, failing to really establish his locations and to deliver his numerous gunshots with any degree of memorable impact. After taking so much time to establish his colourful characters, he unfortunately dispatches them with reckless abandon.

    Indeed I found myself drawing comparisons to another, more recent, Walter Hill feature, from earlier this year - Stallone's Bullet to the Head. There was a comic-book-based buddy-buddy action-thriller which got the action right, but, unfortunately, fell flat in terms of chemistry between the two leads. A blend of the Washington/Wahlberg chemistry of this feature, with the satisfying action of Bullet may well have provided the best of both worlds.

    Still, one can't really complain about such breezy buddy-buddy entertainment; 2GUNS does exactly what it depicts in the poster, providing a colourful hyper-realised setting, colourful comic-book characters and fun R-rated action - which is, itself, a welcome respite after far too many PG-13-restricted actioners - all made considerably more enjoyable thanks to its two, gun-toting, charismatic leads. Washington and Wahlberg may not look back at this as a highly artistic peak in their respective careers, but it's still probably the most unabashedly fun feature either of them has been involved in.

    If you're in the right mood, and prepared to go along for the ride, whilst it doesn't break any new territory, the reliably entertaining 2GUNS may still satisfy your buddy-buddy thriller quota for the year.

    Verdict

    Although treading distinctly familiar buddy-buddy territory, Icelandic actor/director Baltasar Kormakur's adaptation of the comic miniseries of the same name, 2GUNS, remains breezily entertaining largely as a result of Mark Wahlberg and the ever-dependable Denzel Washington.

    It's nothing new, nothing original, and it probably doesn't even reach the standards set by the fun, guilty-pleasure that is Tango & Cash - let alone the genre-defining Lethal Weapon series to which it ultimately aspires - but the witty banter, sporadic drama and intermittently engaging action will easily hold your attention for the duration.

    It does exactly what it depicts in the poster, providing a colourful hyper-realised setting, colourful comic-book characters and fun R-rated action - which is, itself, a welcome respite after far too many PG-13-restricted actioners - all made considerably more enjoyable thanks to its two, gun-toting, charismatic leads. Washington and Wahlberg may not look back at this as a highly artistic peak in their respective careers, but it's still probably the most unabashedly fun feature either of them has been involved in.

    If you're in the right mood, and prepared to go along for the ride, whilst it doesn't break any new territory, the reliably entertaining 2GUNS may still satisfy your buddy-buddy thriller quota for the year.

    The Rundown


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