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Movie Review: “2 Guns”

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Let’s hear it for the buddy movie. Specifically, of the buddy cop variety.

Seriously, there’s something kind of comforting about walking into a theater and knowing exactly what you’re going to get. You know you’re going to see two guys

Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg sit in a car together in "2 Guns"

What is this - “The Watch: Part 2″?

(or women – as we were treated to with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in one of this summer’s best films, “The Heat”), who are opposite in every type of way, that get into some precarious situations, that take on a gaggle of surly-looking bad guy stereotypes, and generally get on each other’s nerves with trash-talk and off-color jokes. Nevertheless, in the end they put aside their differences, take out said stereotypical bad guys, and save the day… still talking trash to one another, even after business is taken care of.

That’s the buddy movie formula.

It’s a little like eating breakfast in a diner – any diner – from South Philly to San Francisco. No matter the setting or how fancy the décor is, you always know you can find something on the menu that you’re familiar with… that you enjoy. It’s comforting.

Coincidentally, a diner setting is exactly how “2 Guns” – the newest entry into the annals of buddy movie history, starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg – kicks off. However, THIS particular diner (Maybelle’s, to be exact) is directly across the street from the Tres Cruces Savings & Loan, which is located in some dusty town near the U.S./Mexican border. Coincidence? There are no coincidences in buddy movies. Even though the employees of BOTH businesses don’t know it yet, these two adjacent buildings will soon be linked together forever. For-e-ver.

This is because the two buddies in this cinematic equation are hatching a diabolical plan involving these two small town establishments. While the gold teeth-sportin’ Bobby Beans (played by Washington – looking here like a slightly smoother version of Angel Batista from “Dexter”) stakes out the bank, the cocky and brash Stig (Wahlberg – going for the whole Dignam from “The Departed” a-hole thing, only minus the Boston accent) sits in Maybelle’s Diner and attempts to order breakfast for Bobby and himself. Bobby, of course, is not happy with the menu choices that Stig has made, so that trash-talking I spoke of earlier starts to come into play – and right on time, too.

Bobby proceeds to calmly make a scene (I know it’s an oxymoron, but it’s a Denzel thing) – he wants pumpernickel toast, not rye – while Stig flirts with and eventually winks at the pretty, unsuspecting waitress. WHAT doesn’t she suspect?

Washington and Wahlberg in "2 Guns"

Make it rain.

Well for one thing, she probably didn’t expect that by the end of the day Maybelle’s would be a burnt-out, hollow shell of what it was and she’d be out of a job. Wait, what? Maybelle’s burned down? When did this happen? Weren’t we just discussing how Stig and Bobby were in it ordering breakfast about a minute ago?

Yup – and that’s how it goes in the buddy movie. One minute Stig is ordering hash and/or silver dollar pancakes and the next he’s retreating to the bathroom to set-off the fire alarm. When the diner evacuates; Stig flicks his Zippo onto the flattop grill, the gas line ignites, and he and Bobby walk out of Maybelle’s seconds before the place explodes behind them. Sort of like the opening scene from another buddy movie (well, the first half of it anyway) “From Dusk Till Dawn,” when Benny’s World of Liquor went kaboom.

Anyway, why are these two, seemingly opposite businesses linked together? Well, Maybelle’s has fantastic donuts and is a hangout for police officers. This allegedly alludes to the old criminal saying: “Never rob a bank in front of a diner that has the best donuts in three counties.” So, Maybelle’s had to go, so no coppers would be around when they robbed Tres Cruces. Ah ha, the plot thickens.

What’s so special about THIS bank, you ask? Well, without spoiling too much, it’s sort of similar to the reason that John Goodman and William Forsythe’s characters robbed that bank in “Raising Arizona” – except, in this equation, you’d have to substitute the hayseed farmer money with the pesos of a Mexican drug dealer.

In this case, the drug dealer is Papi Greco (played by Edward James Olmos), who – as Stig puts it – looks like the “Mexican Albert Einstein.” Bobby and Stig have been partners and working for Papi (and others – they’re freelance criminals… or are they?) for years and it seems that Bobby has set up a deal where he’ll bring Papi some fake passports and in exchange he’ll receive cocaine.

So, Bobby and Stig head down to Papi’s Mexican drug villa to pull off the deal. Of course, the deal goes south (pun intended), as Papi gives Bobby cash money instead of the yeyo (I learned THIS word from “Scarface”), while the two gentlemen conduct the deal in front of a gigantic, angry, snorting bull.

Edward James Olmos, Wahlberg and Washington with variou sthugs in "2 Guns"

Olmos famous. Get it? Forget it.

FORESHADOWING!!

This segment also features the most entertaining scene in the whole film, in which a group of Papi’s thugs are attempting to partake in some target practice – with live chickens buried up to their necks in dirt, with just their heads poking out, being the targets. Some serious trash-talk ensues, by way of Stig to the thug chicken haters, whom Stig berates for their cruel ways and their ugliness… while HE munches on a chicken leg himself. IRONY!! Eventually, in the midst of his epic display of shit talking, Stig pulls out his piece and BLAU! BLAU! BLAU! BLAU! – four, poor chickens with their heads now missin’ (what a great rap lyric).

Back to the adventures of Bobby and Stig, as they’re pulled over on their way back from Papi’s at the border and their car is searched. Just a normal, everyday, border patrol incident, right? Dude, have you seen ANY buddy movies? With both men thinking the other one has set him up, this is where we, the audience, are introduced to the fact that both men did indeed set the other one up. That’s because both men are working undercover and the car search was planned by Bobby’s employers (maybe you’ve heard of ‘em – the DEA), in order to locate the cocaine, which wasn’t there in the first place, still maintaining Bobby’s cover the entire time – whew. Literally, they are technically BOTH on the side of the good guys. Buuuuut, since Bobby (whose real last name is not Beans, it’s Trench- Agent Bobby Trench, to be exact) did not get Papi to give him the cocaine, he cannot close his case and put Papi away. He simply needs more evidence.

Thus, Bobby plans to take matters into his own hands and rob the Tres Cruces Savings & Loan, which is full of Papi’s dirty drug money. So where does Stig fall into this whole thing? Well, he’s, of course, playing Bobby, as he’s a military guy and working for NCIS – who want the money… wellll… just cause Quince, his douchebag superior officer (played by a smarmy James Marsden – I guess that’d make him James Smarmsden – no?) says he does. As an Admiral puts it to Stig much later in the film, he was “blindly following orders.” It’s a little too convenient of a plot point for me, but hey – say it with me – it’s a buddy movie. And damn it, buddy movies don’t need to make sense.

The pair put on some rubber Halloween masks (which suspiciously look like quality, latex makeup jobs, if you ask me) and Frankenstein and the creepy clown rob the Tres Cruces Savings & Loan, in broad daylight, in the shadow of the burned-down “Maybelle’s Diner,” and getaway with $3.5 million. However, Stig seems to think that the total haul equals out to a smidge more than that, but hey, extra bonus cash for them.

Meanwhile, Bobby is secretly freaking, because his DEA buddies – including his smoking-hot partner/girlfriend Deb (played by the smoking-hot Paula Patton, who in one scene conveniently forgets to wear a shirt… oh, that forgetful Paula

Paula Patton and Denzel Washington in "2 Guns"

I’m just puttin’ this out there, seein’ if it sticks… Paula Patton is kind of attractive.

Patton) – are supposed to meet him there, right after the robbery, and arrest him, Nevertheless, they are nowhere to be found. Hmmmm. So, the two, budding-thief buddies take their trolley car full of money and load it into Stig’s truck.

They eventually stop the truck when they’ve gotten far enough away from the bank and get out of the car. Both men know their illegal partnership has to end and they proceed to play the whole “Put yer gun down, I don’t wanna hurt you,” game with each other. Stig eventually shoots Bobby in the arm, even though his NCIS orders are to kill him. However, he has grown quite fond of Bobby, so he lets him live and leaves him in the desert with a bottle of water and a flesh wound. But, not before Stig notices the DEA badge in Bobby’s hand. Uh-oh, “What’s going on here,” Stig asks himself. Thoughts race endlessly around Stig’s flustered mind as he speeds away, with the man he thought he trusted in his rearview mirror… PURE POETRY! Don’t you think?

This sets off a series of events that really amps up “2 Guns” buddy movie gauge – from a 5.5 to about an 8/8.5, where Bobby finds out who Stig really is, Stig finds out what his boss really cares about, Deb finds out Bobby “really meant to love her,” Bobby finds out Deb is seeing a dude named Harvey, and both Stig AND Bobby find out that the money they took does not equal $3.5 million. Actually, it’s more like $43 million and some change. And guess what? It’s not ALL Papi Greco’s, either. The money belongs to another organization entirely. I won’t say who it is. Again, I don’t want to be a spoiler of films, dammit! But, I will tell you this – the “organization”  ends up sending a guy whose name is Earl (this time it’s not Jason Lee, but Bill Paxton – who chews up so much scenery, little chunks get all up in his pornstache) to help them retrieve it. Earl is the quintessential buddy movie bad guy – not exactly evil, but super-psychotic, violent and sadistic… and Fun, with a capital F. It’s kind of like what would’ve happened if Paxton’s Chet character from “Weird Science” grew up and became a hitman or something.

For example, Earl’s schtick is getting info out of a possible source by asking them, “Have you ever played Russian roulette?” Then he goes into this big speech about not pointing the barrel at the temple. “That’s just stupid,” he says, “Then you blow

Bill Paxton and Washington in "2 Guns"

“I know, I know – game over. I heard you the first time.”

the guy’s head off before you get the info you’re looking for.” All I could think about, every time I watched Earl deliver this monologue (which was two, separate times), was – “The path of the righteous man…” If ya know what I mean?

Well, I’ve spent more than enough time on the plot. I will not give away anymore of the action-packed, buddy movie shootouts, car chases and backstabbing double-crosses that occur in the film. Wait, did I mention that Paula Patton forgets to put on a shirt at one point? I did? Well… she does.

So, where does this leave “2 Guns” (which was based on a Boom! Studios comic book series of the same name written by Steven Grant) on the all-time list of buddy movies? I’ll say this- it’s not as good as “The Heat,” but it’s closer than I thought it’d be. Even though “2 Guns” is more of a clichéd, straight-up action movie, it does have a good deal of humor in it – especially the banter between

"2 Guns" comic book: written by Steven Grant.

Not a total likeness of Denzel, but the casting of Mark Wahlberg is spot-on.

Washington and Wahlberg (Olmos has his humorous moments too, even as the villain) – which is classic witty repartee at its finest. These guys are a perfect team and I sincerely hope I see them together again, as both actors have the ability to bring out the best in their fellow actors – especially during scenes filled with rapid fire, back-and-forth dialogue.

However, the visual style is pretty spot-on. Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur (this is his second Hollywood film and, coincidentally, his second with Wahlberg as well – with the 2012 thriller “Contraband” being the first) does an admirable job putting the audience at a safe following distance, without getting too artsy of his own good. He does a great job with wide, aerial shots, but on the flip side, some of the slow-motion shots (especially in the third act) are a little bit too John Woo-ish for me.

“2 Guns” is no “Lethal Weapon,” either. The characters aren’t fleshed-out enough. In fact, they’re not fleshed-out at all. As far as the audience is concerned, these guys only existed for the two hours they were on-screen. That’s it. No back stories, no explanations of intention, no motives – just pedal-to-the-medal, instinctual drive. I mean, even “Tango & Cash” had family members make it into the movie.

Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure that extra character information might’ve weighed down the proceedings in “2 Guns” anyway. It’s essentially 109-minutes of two men forced to do battle together to take on the greedy, seedy-side of the establishment. The script (by TV writer Blake Masters) focuses on the bond that is formed by these two discarded men during the life-changing ordeal they’re forced to partake in. It alludes to the fact that the character of Bobby was kind of a loner and didn’t have any “peeples,” as Stig likes to put it. Even Bobby’s relationship with Deb isn’t going all too well. Stig, on the other hand, is “not liked by many people,” at least according to Bobby he isn’t. He has blindly followed orders from the military, which TWICE abandons him in the film. Quite frankly, he’s in need of a friend too.

So, Bobby and Stig kill some bad guys, kidnap some drug lords, throw verbal barbs at each other and generally watch each other’s backs in the process. Nothing says friendship like the ominous promise of a retaliatory gunshot, am I right? No? Again, you obviously haven’t seen any buddy movies, have you?

Well, if not, “2 Guns” is a pretty solid place to start. That is, unless “The Heat” is still in theaters.

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