Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Film Review: 2 Guns

Copyright: Universal Pictures
The first thing I noticed in this film was the shirt that Robert Trench, played by Denzel Washington, wears. It’s wide, baggy and flows freely around him, and it reminded me of the same shirts he wore in film Man on Fire. I noticed this while Trench exchanged a long and ultra-cool conversation with his partner in crime, Michael Stigman, played by Mark Wahlberg. A minute later, the diner they were sitting in explodes, and they walk out like nothing happens, with the bonus of looking icy cold while glass windows get engulfed in flames only a few feet from their turned backs. Because, you know, cool guys don't look at explosions. But cool guys do wear shits straight from the closet of the hippest resident of a retirement home.

The script of 2 Guns plays on the current popularity of Mexico drug war culture. Two criminals, Stigman and Trench, decide to steal the retirement fund of a Mexican cartel boss, located in a small bank in the US. They are both tough as nails, and both work undercover for a different government organization. Of course, they are unaware that the other guy is also playing on the Johnny Law team. So, while planning how to deceive on the other one, as well as the cartel, they get mixed in even murkier and much more dangerous waters.

For me, the two best things in this film are the supporting actors - Bill Paxton as the shadowy figure hunting down Stigman and Trench, and to a lesser degree, Edward James Olmos as the crime lord Papi Greco. Paxton is exceptionally funny and interesting to watch, and his bad guy characterization is something that I don’t get to see often in big movies like this. Olmos, on the other hand, presents a relatively subtle, yet ruthless kingpin. Apart from that, Wahlberg’s character is also occasionally interesting because of his straightforward, insensitive comments (Mexican Einstein joke is the funniest thing in the film).

The rest of the movie is a heartless action kill ‘em all fest. Unlike, for example, The Last Stand which also didn’t aim very high, 2 Guns just doesn’t even have the main likable characters. Although Wahlberg isn’t a complete disaster, Washington definitely is. In his age roles like this simply don’t work - his lover in the film is half his age, and nothing in the story (except one sarcastic observation by Stigman) tries to explain what the hell would he be doing as an 60-year-old undercover operative running around in the desert with Mexican drug lords. He does wear a cool looking hat and several equally cool pairs of shades, but even that doesn’t reduce his age. I appreciate his enthusiasm in this film, but those shirts he wears are better suited for a golf course than a desert shootout. He should listen to his outfit.

The director Baltasar Kormákur did the best he could. The movie tries very hard to entertain, and succeeds only gradually. There is even some hint of a political message concerning the US foreign policies and its agencies (mainly the CIA), but the film isn’t exactly subversive because all of its grievances can all be traced to a few corrupt individuals, so let’s not blame the system.

Kormákur should have gone for a brainless action thriller where everything was about two undercover cops that believe the other one is a real criminal. Forcing stuff into this mix only weakened it, leaving a tasteless soup containing A-list stars.

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