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2 Guns
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by Brett Gallman

"Succeeds thanks to a cast full of big guns."
3 stars

I think 2013 has produced enough buddy-cop flicks (or derivations thereof) to justify a think-piece or two at this point--why has this staple in particular found such a strong footing here lately? Even godfather Walter Hill dusted it off earlier this year to middling effect with "Bullet to the Head,"and that film now has its spiritual successor in the similarly cut-through-the-bullshit-titled "2 Guns," a film that perhaps speaks to a world that wants just that: no bullshit. Just two guys, their guns, and their attempt to find some semblance of justice in a corrupt underworld.

Coincidentally intersecting with headlines that have engendered distrust in any and every government agency, the film offers up a host of shady institutions. When we meet Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington) and Marcus Stigman (Mark Wahlberg), we're unaware that they're DEA and NCIS, respectively. Instead, they seem like a couple of skilled con-men casing their next heist over breakfast, where the two spit some Tarantino-lite banter back and forth before sending the diner up in flames ("never rob a bank across from the diner with the best donuts in three counties," Trench intones).

The film then backs up to a week earlier (speaking of Tarantino-lite) to reveal that the duo have really been staking out a Mexican drug lord (Edward James Olmos). Neither is aware that the other is undercover until after they've successfully knocked over the bank, but that's just the beginning of their discoveries. Instead of swiping some chump change ($3 million or so) from the kingpin, they actually managed to make off with $43 million of dirty CIA money. Not only is a crooked, sociopathic agent (Bill Paxton) out to track it down, but Trench and Stigman have no one to turn to: the former's boss gets gunned down, while the latter has actually been the pawn in an elaborate conspiracy involving another dirty officer (James Marsden, way against type here as a smarmy creep with a buzzcut).

"2 Guns" doesn't proceed with any sort of ingenuity at this point, but it does move with a furious sense of purpose as it burrows down its conspiratorial rabbit hole. The plot is absurdly convoluted and hits the obligatory beats on its way to a gigantic Mexican standoff that perhaps disappoints, if only because it winds up feeling so perfunctory. However, like the best "48 Hours" imitators, it wisely leans on the charisma of its two leads; this genre has frequently valued personalities over plot, so much so that we often recall duos--Riggs and Murtaugh, Tango and Cash--much more easily than their plights or shootouts.

"Trench and Stigs" similarly rolls off the tongue nicely, and the roles are inhabited by a couple of guys whose personas have lapsed into shtick. Not a whole lot has changed here: Washington is still smooth, dignified, and likable, even when he's putting on an act as a roughneck; Wahlberg is fast-talking, cocky, and carries himself with a hint of adolescent swagger. The familiarity of the turns is offset by the actors' investment--it might have been easy to autopilot this sort of junk, but the two find a natural chemistry. Their dynamic also resists the typical straight/loose cannon deal and opts for something a little bit more offbeat: Trench is the usual no-nonsense sort, but Stigs isn't volatile so much as he's just a goof who spends most of the film chasing after Trench like a little brother seeking approval.

Surrounding them is a colorful cast of heels, with Paxton serving as the headliner. It's always a treat whenever he's on the big screen, and he doesn't disappoint here as a southern-fried lunatic with a sinister Texas twang. His villainous tic involves Russian roulette while discussing its merits--it's never a good idea to threaten someone with a bullet to the face, lest the bullet rests in the first chamber, so he picks out other body parts instead.

Olmos is the second-level baddie here, playing a more mustache-twirling sort who breeds prize bulls that double as torture implements. Both of these guys bring flavor to a film that could easily be more rote than it is. Even Marsden is a bit of a revelation playing Stig's rogue commanding officer whose role becomes more meaningful as the film winds and wends towards its conclusion. And if that weren't enough, Fred Ward drops by for a bit part to remind us that we don't see enough of him these days either.

The film reunites director Baltasar Korm�kur with Wahlberg, who served as the lead in "Contraband," a film that reeked of a promising foreign director paying his Hollywood dues by delivering a solid, serviceable thriller. However, "2 Guns" provides evidence that Korm�kur has some affection for this sweaty, rough-and-tumble scene, here shot with the same grit, clarity, and weight as his previous effort. Often pitched onto sun-drenched vistas, his buddy cop iteration feels like a sweltering frontier film that's vaguely reminiscent of spaghetti westerns (at its core, it's really just "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"), and the pulpy characters adhere to the project's comic book roots. While the dialogue and narrative gymnastics might faintly echo Tarantino, Korm�kur's aesthetics subtly evoke Peckinpah--here is a collection of men driven by and drawn into violence at every turn due to their various codes, whether it be duty, respect, or just plain old greed.

Most importantly, Korm�kur doesn't waste his impressive ensemble. What "2 Guns" lacks in originality, it makes up for with personality and color. In no way does it reinvent the wheel, but this is a genre that doesn't crave reinvention--it exists to reassure us that two guys (or gals, as is the case in "The Heat," this year's most accomplished buddy cop revival) can join forces to kill the bad guys and have a good laugh about it afterwards. "2 Guns" proves that it's not too old for this shit--not just yet, anyway.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=24289&reviewer=429
originally posted: 08/02/13 04:54:48
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell not a bad popcorn action flick 4 stars
11/14/13 Langano Decent time waster. 3 stars
8/09/13 mr.mike Well done '80s style action flick 4 stars
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  02-Aug-2013 (R)
  DVD: 19-Nov-2013

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