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Movie Review: "2 Guns"

CCurmudgeon logo newBY VAN ROBERTS

Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg make a charismatic pair of wisecracking ruffians in “Contraband” director Baltasar Kormákur’s action comedy “2 Guns” (*** out of ****) with Bill Paxton and Edward James Olmos as their adversaries.  Comparably, “2 Guns” qualifies as a lightweight version of Oliver Stone’s superb narcotics opus “Savages.”  Nevertheless, “2 Guns” shuns the gratuitous blood, gore, and mutilations that made Stone’s film so challenging to watch.  In Kormákur’s film, Washington and Wahlberg are working undercover to take down a notorious Mexican cartel chieftain.  Initially, neither knows that the other is a government agent.  Inexplicably, when the bottom falls out from under our heroes, they find themselves caught in a cross-fire from their own treacherous superiors as well as the villains.
In the 2012 movie “Savages,” a corrupt DEA official (John Travolta) paved the way for the Mexican cartel to gain a foothold in California.  In “2 Guns,” our heroes abide by orders that corrupt government officials have given so the cartels can safely distribute their product in the U.S. without fear of confiscation.  Cast as a squeaky clean DEA agent, Denzel has toiled long and hard to infiltrate a major cartel so he can bust a major international crime czar.  Unfortunately, he encounters an enemy infinitely more dangerous than the cartels.  The premise that the cartels couldn’t flourish without CIA intervention is provocative.  Mind you, this isn’t the first time either a television show or a movie has depicted spooks in cahoots with murderous Mexican mafia.  Indeed, as far back as “Miami Vice” in the late 1980s, rogue CIA agents were importing narcotics from Southeast Asia.  Recently, “Person of Interest” has used similar storylines involving corrupt CIA officials in the illegal drug trade.  Meantime, Kormákur and “Law & Order: L.A.” writer Blake Masters have done a splendid job with their adaptation of Steven Grant’s graphic novel.  Grant implicated dirty government officials in the narcotics trade, but he didn’t take it to the extent that Kormákur does in “2 Guns.”  This exciting but formulaic shoot’em up ripples with surprises galore during its lean, mean, 109-minutes.  When our heroes aren’t swapping lead with the opposition, they swap witticisms with themselves.  They cavort together like Danny Glover and Mel Gibson did in the “Lethal Weapon” franchise but with considerably less pyrotechnics.2GUNS-ADV
Robert ‘Bobby’ Trench (Denzel Washington of “Glory”) and Michael ‘Stig’ Stigman (Mark Wahlberg of “The Departed”) hold up a nothing bank in a nowhere town named Tres Cruces.  Surprising the local constabulary, our duo locks them up in their own cells along with their own prisoners.  Afterward, our heroes don Halloween masks and hold up the bank. Rather than go for the drawers at each teller’s cage, they bypass them to rifle the safe deposit boxes.  Bobby and Stig had figured that they would find a cool $3 or $4 million in Mexican drug cartel revenue in the bank.  They wind up stealing more than $43 million during their short robbery.  At the payoff and split-up point, after they have counted their loot, Stig double-crosses Bobby, shoots him, and then learns to his chagrin that Bobby is a DEA agent.  Bobby complains about this revelation to his superior officer, Quince (James Marsden of “X-Men”), after he hands over the bundle of booty.  Before he realizes it, Stig’s own people are blasting away at him and listing him as absence without leave.  It doesn’t help matters that Stig assaulted another Navy official.  Meantime, Bobby begins to have his doubts about his own people after a group of CIA agents led by Earl (Bill Paxton of “Twister”) show up and shoot his topmost superior and frame him for his murder.  Along the way, Mexican cartel chieftain Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos of “Miami Vice”) gets so angry with our heroes that he ties them up and lets his prize bull charge them with lowered horns.  Miraculously, Bobby and Stig leave Papi’s premises in one piece, but not before the villain abducts Bobby’s former girlfriend, Deb (Paula Patton of “Precious”), and threatens to ice her if they don’t cough up the loot.
“2 Guns” boasts an adequate number of gunfights, careening car chases, and tough guy banter to make the grade as an above-average comic thriller like the “Beverly Hills Cop” movies.  Our heroes never seem to ever completely steer clear of trouble.  Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg look like they had blast making this shoot’em up.  The supporting cast is sturdy, with James Marsden distinguishing himself as more of an adversary than Edward James Olmos.  Despite his brief appearance in “2 Guns,” Robert John Burke of “Safe” and “RoboCop 3” makes a definite impression as Denzel’s boss.  Kormákur stages several slick looking shoot-outs with our heroes standing back to back against the bad guys.  Mind you, Kormákur’s shoot-outs are not as gory as Stone’s firefights in “Savages” or John Woo’s bullet ballads in “The Killer” and “Hard Boiled.”  Animal rights activists will probably complain about the scene where chickens have been buried up to their beaks in the dirt for target practice.  The last time that I saw anything as cruel as this was in the cult Sam Peckinpah western “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” with James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson.  Happily, “2 Guns” never wears out its welcome and Kormákur gives it a different enough vibe to set it apart from the typical action comedy.


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