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2 Guns (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

2 Guns

2 GUNS (2013)

Starring Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Edward James Olmos, Bill Paxton, Paula Patton, James Marsden, Fred Ward, Robert John Burke, Greg Sproles, Patrick Fischler. Edgar Arreola, Derek Solorsano, Kyle Russell Clements, Christopher Matthew Cook, Tim Bell, Tait Fletcher, Jesus Jr., Azure Parsons, John McConnell, Jack Landry, Ritchie Montgomery, Ambyr Childers, Robert Larriviere and Lucy Faust.

Screenplay by Blake Masters.

Directed by Baltasar Kormakur.

Distributed by Magnolia Pictures. 109 minutes. Rated R.

Remember when action film plots had to make some sense? It seems a long time ago, I know, but once upon a time, little things like story coherence and plot believability mattered. Writers and directors knew when things would not pass the smell test and tried to limit the unlikely or ridiculous story twists. "No one will buy it" was actually considered to be a criticism.

2 Guns is a very exciting movie, with lots of fine action scenes, chase sequences, deadly stunts, interesting set pieces and a series of plot twists and turns that could leave you breathless. It has fine actors, smart, quick pacing, clever quips, male bonding and an impressive death rate (at least for supporting characters and dozens of extras).

And yet, there wasn't a single second when I was watching that I didn't feel that the story was complete and utter contrived bullshit. It could never, ever happen this way.

Which, for whatever reason, does not make 2 Guns unique anymore in Hollywood. And if you surrender yourself to the movie's fractured logic, it is a rather fun experience.

However, we are now in a movie atmosphere where heroes can't be killed, or even particularly injured, despite going through impossible mayhem like devastating car crashes, being rained on by thousands of rounds of machine gun ammo, being tortured, being hunted by gangsters, corrupt feds and corrupt military officers, being shot and left for dead in the desert, etc., etc., etc.

And I'll let you action scribes in on a little secret: it's damn hard to build up and suspense or even any interest in films in which the leads are pretty much guaranteed to escape all forms of harm. There is also the sad problem that all the characters here are pretty two dimensional. They have little quirks, but no real inner depth, no real souls. If they are in no real danger or there is no feeling for the characters, well then who really cares?

Character does not drive story in this world: this is all about story driving the story at least 120 MPH. It's a good way to wrap the whole vehicle around a tree.

This sea change into utter fantasy in action films is not 2 Guns' fault. It was happening long before 2 Guns was made and will continue long afterwards. However, 2 Guns just happened to resurrect this notion in me: it feels like a movie made up by committee, or maybe one of those story-plotting computer programs. In fairness, it was apparently based on a graphic novel. But that doesn't mean that it must feel cartoonish. There was not a single thing that felt real, believable or human to me in the entire film.

The terribly contrived plot has Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington) and Stig Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) as two down and dirty banditos on the Mexican border. We quickly learn that these two are actually both deep undercover agents: Bobby for the DEA, Stig for the Navy. Neither knows the other is a government agent. Nobody else does, supposedly, either. (I apologize if that revelation seems like a spoiler, but this little nugget of info is dropped on the audience fairly early in the movie.)

When the two pull off a bank heist (not one, but two government agents robbing a bank? Wha???) and end up stealing significantly more money than they expected – which may be from a government slush fund – suddenly these two dudes are targeted for death by... well pretty much everyone. The two fight for survival while they hunt for the now missing money – alone and as a team – as the body count behind them rises exponentially.

Eventually the question isn't who is double crossing these two guys, it's who is not?

Washington and Wahlberg do what they can with these hackneyed characters and actually do build up a bit of a hard-boiled odd couple connection. Still we all know what is going to happen before it does: they will run, they will fight, they will escape impossible danger and they will live to see another day. And they will inevitably come up with a great quip about it.

So while 2 Guns is not by a long shot the only film with this predictability problem, it's still going to get the blame from me. I will blame it for the evils of others' faults as well as the hackneyed storytelling it is peddling. And I will hope that someday, a tiny glimmer of realism can be returned to action filmmaking.

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved. Posted: August 2, 2013.

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