2 Guns starts with a bank robbery committed by Denzel Washington and Mark Walhberg, both playing undercover agents, though neither knows the other is undercover. And then the movie gets plotty. WAY too plotty. It’s funny, because the movie is being sold entirely on the strength of its two lead actors, but it spends so much energy trying to keep the two apart, and succeeding. If it’s a “buddy movie”, that’s only because the studio says so, and not because it makes any sort of effort to be one.
It’s directed by Baltasar Kormakur, and while it’s technically competent, it doesn’t really have any sort of personality. Two names I’ve heard come up when talking about 2 Guns are Walter Hill and Sam Peckinpah. This is the sort of movie either of these two would have made if not classic, at least memorable; they would have used the movie as one of their ongoing explorations into brotherhood and masculinity. What Kormakur gives us is the occasionally witty banter between Washington and Walhberg… at least during those moments they’re actually on-screen together. Thankfully, the two are entertaining personalities, so that is enough to keep you mildly entertained.
Hill and Peckinpah were also masters at presenting violence cinematically. 2 Guns has quite a few action set pieces, and while I was entertained while watching them, they don’t leave much of an impression (other than that red 1964 Impala with 43 million dollars in the trunk that blows up in slo-mo as Washington and Walhberg do a “cool walk” away from the vehicle, but that’s only because I was sad for the car going out the way it did.)
The movie gets a lot of mileage playing off the idea of government distrust. With the current uproar over the NSA and cell phones, there hasn’t been this much unanimous and vocal public outrage over government shenanigans in a long time. The filmmakers are canny in exploiting that distrust; even though the movie features a drug lord (Edward James Olmos) who recently decapitated a man and put his head in a bowling bag, he’s not even the baddest bad guy in the movie. At least he seems to abide by some sort of code. But the U.S. government? Whatever is beneficial for this moment is paramount, so pity the poor person who made a deal 5 minutes ago and actually hopes that deal still means anything.
Thank goodness for Bill Paxton! Without getting too much into particulars, he plays the man responsible for the money that was stolen, and he looks like he’s having a blast playing him. He doesn’t have a threatening presence, but he plays the character like a wannabe bully who happens to have very powerful people backing him up, so he and is evil id are taking full advantage of it. It’s like he’s been given a lifetime GET OUT OF JAIL FREE card and he’s more than happy to indulge in its privileges. Whenever Paxton appears on-screen, it’s the only time the movie really comes to life; he brings an unpredicability that’s more than welcome in such a formula concoction like this.
2 Guns is a perfect example of cinema generica. It’s not bad, but it feels so familiar and should probably be a whole lot better, considering the talent involved. It doesn’t strive for greatness; in fact, it’d be more than happy with OK-ness. I wouldn’t tell anybody not to see it; if you’re looking for something to pass the time for a couple of hours, you could do a lot worse (see my previous post.) But a studio like Universal, with all of its resources, should strive for something better than some made-for-basic-cable television movie you’d see on a Saturday night.Follow @filmbyfelix