Friday, Aug. 2, 2013

2 Guns, Mexican Standoff

Washington and Wahlberg as funny bad-good buddies

By David Luhrssen
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  Bobby (Denzel Washington) and Stig (Mark Wahlberg) pull up to a small town diner in an old Challenger and proceed to plan a bank robbery. They are the odd couple of 2 Guns, a buddy comedy coupled with a crime thriller. Bobby and Stig are at odds through most of the movie, at cross-purposes even, but of course, in the end, they watch each other’s backsides and earn each other’s respect.

 The twists in the convoluted, occasionally disjointed story are many and come down to this: Bobby is a cool as ice DEA agent and the more affable Stig is with Naval Intelligence. Both are deep undercover and don’t know their partners’ identity until well into plot. They pose as gangbangers for a Mexican cartel, a mean bunch of hombres who stash the head of one of their enemies in a bowling bag. In reality, Bobby and Stig are acting out a plan hatched in their agencies to thwart the cartel by stealing its slush fund, kept in safety deposit boxes in the bank across from the diner.

 What’s enjoyable about 2 Guns is the motor-mouthing interplay between Washington and Wahlberg; their characters are a pair of jive talkers, trading lines at the speed of screwball comedy. The humor cannot entirely paper over the coarse brutality—and maybe, just maybe, that’s the point. Drug trafficking is an ugly big business and laughter is at least as effective as law enforcement. There are fleeting moments of pathos amidst the rush of funny lines and bone-breaking blows and, more noticeably, an occasional sharp social comment. “It’s a free market, not a free world,” says the sadistic CIA agent looking for the money Bobby and Stig stole from the bank.

 About that money: neither the DEA nor Navy Intelligence knew that it belongs to the CIA—part of the agency’s commission for aiding the Mexican cartel. And that isn’t the end of the complications. Stig is a rogue within a rogue operation and Bobby can trust no one, not even his fellow DEA agent-love interest Deb (Paula Patton). The America of 2 Guns has slid into the Third World.

 It’s been over 20 years since Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, and the thrill of funny, pop-culture referencing tough guys has hardened into a formula. As always, the final scene is always a matter of ramping up the preposterous explosions, crashes and mayhem. 2 Guns clever climax? A Mexican standoff—in Mexico.

 

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