2 GUNS, 2013
Director: Baltasar Kormakur
Stars: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Edward James Olmos
Review by Joshua Starnes
A DEA agent and an undercover Naval Intelligence officer who have been tasked with investigating one another find they have been set up by the mob.
A good crime film is a like an onion, filled with layer upon layer upon layer you can peel back until there's nothing left but wondering what it was all about anyway.
DEA Agent Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington) knows the kind of story. It's the one where you spend three years undercover working with a two-bit stick-up man (Mark Wahlberg) trying desperately to get close to a notorious drug czar (Edward James Olmos) only to discover all the cash he'd been stacking away actually belonged to the CIA and you never really knew what was going on at all.
It's the sort of role Washington, when he's slumming it, does well and he knows it, bouncing back and forth from a boisterous free spirited con man to a non-nonsense cop who will do what it takes. Director Baltasar Kormakur ("Contraband") certainly knows it, backing out of the way of most of his scenes and letting Washington mug for all he's worth, then coming back in to take charge of the plot.
Actually it's the way he seems to handle most of "2 Guns," Universal's adaptation of the graphic novel by Steven Grant, giving interesting scenes with occasionally witty dialogue to good actors and getting out of their way for a couple of minutes until it's time to move on or shoot someone. It's a reliably hands off form of action movie filmmaking that rarely forces it self and provides more than a few moments of genuine spark as the characters and the audience jointly try to work out what's been going on.
That said, a bad crime film is also like an onion, filled with layer upon layer upon layer you peel back until there's nothing left but you wondering why you just wasted so much of your precious time.
Just ask Navy Intelligence officer Marcus Stigman (Mark Wahlberg), an up and coming special forces operator who's spent six months under cover working with a two-bit con man (Denzel Washington) trying desperately to get close to a notorious drug czar (Edward James Olmos) only to discover all the cash he'd been stacking away actually belonged to the CIA and he never really knew what was going on at all.
Wahlberg is also quite good in a role that calls for him to do very little but wink and smart mouth, both of which he is naturally gifted at, and he does have genuinely good chemistry with Washington.
But after a while you're left asking yourself if all the individual bits, as good as they are, are actually adding up to anything and if so, if the filmmakers have any idea what it is. Yeah, Bill Paxton is a hilariously fascinating as an unabashedly vile CIA agent-of all the film's many, many, many villains he's the only one who seems to know what sort of film he's in-but after a while you have to have ask yourself 'so what?' which is never a good question for a film to illicit.
And the focus is all on the characters, for good or ill, as there is little in look or feel to distract you. Cinematographer Oliver Wood ("The Bourne Ultimatum") has turned in one of the flattest, ugliest films of his career though that may not be his fault so much as facing the reality that everything interesting worth shooting in Louisiana and New Mexico has been shot and all the tax incentives in the world won't change that.
Washington and Wahlberg almost make up for it; they're certainly interesting enough together that you would be excused for wanting to see them again in another, better plot. One that does eventually go somewhere except in circles.
A lot of humor and some decent performances elevate a so-so crime film to just better than so-so, but not by much.