Friday, August 2, 2013

“2 Guns” – Hey…Mark Wahlberg really can act.

With a title as stupid as 2 Guns, I went into the theater expecting a lousy, half-assed, run of the mill action flick. Really, can you blame me? For starters, the title doesn’t make much sense in the context of the film. The two “guns” are supposed to be Marcus Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) and Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington), but neither one of them is what I would expect a gun to be, which in my mind is a hired gun (more on this in a minute). More importantly, they didn’t even bother to spell out the number two. In my book, that’s just lazy and there isn’t much worse in this world than bad grammar.

Besides the title, the other red flag for me was that Mark Wahlberg is one of the most inconsistent actors on the planet. Sometimes you get the Mark Wahlberg that nails it (Boogie Nights, The Fighter, The Departed, Rock Star); other times you get the Mark Wahlberg that makes you write profanity laced tweets telling him to go Funky Bunch himself (The Happening, Max Payne, Ted). If there’s one consistent weakness in his performances, it’s that he tends to come off as a little whiny and smaller than the role needs him to be. Maybe it’s his fault or maybe it’s just bad direction, but it’s rare when he owns his character. That is, until 2 Guns happened.

2 Guns is most similar to Lethal Weapon. It’s basically a buddy cop movie, but without the ham jobs typical of Will Ferrell or Tracy Morgan that turn potentially decent films into shit fests. Unlike Martin Riggs, Stigman isn’t suicidal, so there’s far less chance of Wahlberg inserting too much solemnity. What Stigman does have in common with Riggs is that he is a little on the crazy side, is an extremely accurate shot, and provides the lion’s share of the comedy throughout the film. Also like Riggs, his partner is an older black man in the form of Bobby, though Bobby is never “too old for this shit” as evidenced by his having sex with a colleague half his age, Deb (Paula Patton).

While the movie plays out in a similar way as Lethal Weapon, the details are different, including the fact that Stigman and Bobby aren’t partners, at least not in any kind of traditional way. When we first meet them, they are staking out a bank they plan to rob. Unbeknownst to each other, each is working undercover and planning on the other guy taking the fall for the crime since they think the other guy is an actual criminal. After robbing the bank, they discover that they have stolen far more than the three million dollars they were expecting to get, as well as that the money didn’t belong to the drug dealer, Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos), they intended to rip off in the heist. Instead, it belongs to
Earl (Bill Paxton), who is much worse than Papi.

After the heist, the story twists and turns through double and triple crosses as Bobby and Stigman try to avoid getting killed by Earl, Papi, and Quince (James Marsden) – the third bad guy who is a crooked naval officer and responsible for Stigman being involved in the first place. While some people may find the plot convoluted and hard to follow, it’s actually a good weave of a bunch of crooked people – some more so than others, even our heroes – trying to get their hands on the money or trying not to die. This also forces Bobby and Stigman to come back together to help each other, as it’s the only way either of them will survive.

Beyond the plot, Wahlberg, Washington, Paxton, and Olmos make the movie much better than your typical action movie. Paxton and Olmos deliver good bad guys and do a very good job of making you root against them, while not coming off as too serious. They also create a great contrast to Washington and Wahlberg, who manage to recapture the witty banter that’s been missing since the days of Lethal Weapon. Wahlberg especially shines as he appears to thoroughly enjoying himself as Stigman. He is literally smiling through most of the film, almost as if to say “See everyone? This is what I signed up to be an actor for.” Or, maybe “I can’t believe how bad I was in The Happening either.”

As I said earlier, 2 Guns is the type of movie where you hear the title and see the previews and just assume the movie is going to stink. But, I promise you, it’s far better than either of those two things makes it look. You’ll enjoy the action, laugh at the comedy, and wonder why it’s taken Wahlberg so long to find a character that he can finally own. I’m sure he was wondering the same thing.

Rating: Don’t ask for any of your money back. The film will make you forget Wahlberg’s bad movies and that there was ever a Funky Bunch.

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