Title: 2 Guns
Play time: 1h 49min
Director: Baltasar Kormakur
Starring: Paula Patton, Edward James Olmos, Mark Wahlberg, Bill Paxton, Denzel Washington
Great Mix of Action & Comedy – 2 Guns (2013)
The unmistakable whiff of giving-a-shit pervades 2 Guns, which balances on a knife edge somewhere between hardscrabble actioner and buddy comedy. Harnessing a surprisingly delightful chemistry between Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington, the film plows full-steam through what might have been a rote combination of heist flick and undercover cop thriller were it not also consistently funny, supremely well-made, and filled with countless specific little details that defeat any notion of anonymity. Temperamentally, its closest analogue this summer may be Furious 6, but where that movie was turgid and lazy, this one is fleet-footed and a blast.
Baltasar Kormakur Confirms his Outstanding Producing Performances
This is the fourth English-language film from the talented Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur, and the second to be widely released in the States. The first, last year’s Contraband, showed promise but was ultimately defeated by its unselfconscious commitment to an idiotic plot. Here, Kormakur embraces a looser, goofier aesthetic, but if anything tightens his handling of action and movement. 2 Guns is a technical marvel, offering significantly better action than the likes of Zack Snyder and Guillermo del Toro could muster with multiples of this film’s budget. One stand-out sequence involves Wahlberg attempting to evade a bunch of military bad guys in and around a canyon, and Kormakur’s gift for pacing and attention to detail are remarkable: the scene builds momentum (watch for a wonderful shot where the camera pans from Wahlberg to the top of the canyon wall to show his pursuers peering over the edge, then pans back down to find him gone), maintains geographic integrity, and somehow manages to end on a big, satisfying laugh.
The Cast of 2 Guns Outperforms Their Intended Roles
Beyond pure technical proficiency (in a just world, 2 Guns would be a shoo-in for the editing Oscar), the film offers a variety of gratuitous little touches that are either wonderfully playful (Wahlberg keeps having to wave his arm to reactivate a motion-sensitive light during a suspenseful interrogation scene) or display a deranged imagination (the film at one point makes Wahlberg and Washington sneak across the US-Mexican border with a group of illegal immigrants – and turns this into a montage). There’s a character with a hook for a hand named McPaw; the film doesn’t linger on this. Bad guys are played by top-shelf character actors like Edward James Olmos and Bill Paxton, the latter sporting a bolo tie and putting the accent on the first syllable of “roulette.”
These details complement the dynamic, often very funny chemistry between the two stars. Wahlberg gives the sort of jokey, hyper-verbal, genially dimwitted performance at which he excels (earnestness is his worst enemy), while Washington deposits a layer of scuzz over his usual slick charisma. The fact that the film pits them against each other in a perpetual battle for status helps: for my money, 2 Guns is a funnier buddy movie than The Heat.
A Better Plot Maybe? Nonetheless, 2 Guns is a Great Film
I’ve been mostly mum about the plot; this is because I went in knowing nothing about it and enjoyed the sly first-act revelations that are freely dispensed in the first sentence of the official synopsis. It’s really best not to spoil any of the fun. 2 Guns is ultimately pretty trivial, but in a summer of lumbering, unwieldy blockbusters sanitized and sucked free of nuance for consumption in China, it’s a lively, quirky, lived-in delight.