Release Date: August 2, 2013
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Writers: Blake Masters (screenplay), Steven Grant (based on the Boom! Studios graphic novels by)
Stars: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton
MPAA Rating: R
When you are hungry, sometimes you just need a big, greasy cheeseburger. You know there are better food options out there that are healthier and more nutritious, but sometimes a hamburger just really hits the spot.
2 Guns is a hamburger of a movie. It’s not the best or the most sophisticated film you’ll see this year. But sometimes you are simply jonesing to see Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg exchange barbed quips at one another while shooting down bad guys.
It’s been a lackluster summer for big budget action films. Everything has just seemed so bland and predictable. That’s why 2 Guns was such a surprising change of pace. The film has charm and personality and, as Jules Winnfield explained in Pulp Fiction, “Personality goes a long way.”
The film opens with Michael ‘Stig’ Stigman (Wahlberg) sitting in a diner, talking on the phone to Robert ‘Bobby’ Trench (Washington), who is next door opening a safe deposit box so that he can case the bank, which the two are planning to rob. The two bicker about what Trench should have for breakfast. When he joins Stig at the table, he immediately begins giving him a hard time for a lecherous wink Stig gives to the waitress. I had no expectations going into 2 Guns that it would be any good, but after this opening scene, which showcases the wonderful chemistry these two actors have together, I knew I was in good hands.
In that opening segment, Trench explains to Stig that you “never rob a bank across from a diner that has the best donuts in three counties” because the diner is likely to be crawling with cops. This becomes an omen that the two men fail to listen to.
They rob the bank anyway. What follows is a Raymond Chandler-esque tale full of twists and turns and betrayal. Stig and Trench are playing each other. Stig is a Naval Intelligence Officer who is doing this bank robbery off the books to get back in the good graces of his superiors. Trench is an undercover DEA agent looking to tie the money to a drug kingpin named Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos).
But it turns out the money doesn’t belong to Greco. And there’s a lot more of it in the bank than they anticipated. The two try to get to the center of who’s money they stole and why they were set up while not being able to trust anyone, including each other.
The film never quite commits to being a true film noir. Instead, it uses the noir as window dressing to add flavor to what ultimately ends up being an action film full of explosions and gun fights. It would have been interesting to see a version of the story that was a bit darker and felt more like a true noir detective story with two hard-boiled (by wisecracking) protagonists who have different motives for solving the case and can’t even trust one another. But I still think the film we ended up with has enough twists and enough personality to make it one of the most fun and rewarding action films out there this year.
In addition to the great chemistry between Washington and Wahlberg, the other highlight of the film is Bill Paxton’s portrayal of Earl. Earl is the tough-as-nail, cowboy-hat wearing heavy tasked with tracking down our two heroes and getting the money back for the people it was taken from. It’s a role Paxton shines in. Earl is a formidable and terrifying villain who plays his own unique, twisted version of Russian Roulette with interrogation suspects to get the information he’s looking for. But in Paxton’s hands, Earl is also a charming and riveting wild card that you look forward to watching every time he is on screen.
The film is just unique and charming enough and has just enough noir flavor to carry it through to the end, though ultimately it devolves into a mindless shootout. I enjoyed the ending – mindless as it may be – but I imagine others may be a bit disappointed that they couldn’t find a more clever resolution.
But ultimately, if you are in the mood for a big, greasy hamburger of a movie this weekend, give 2 Guns a chance. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his reviews, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.