"2 Guns" is packing action
Director Baltasar Kormakur’s "2 Guns" is a rare throw back to the days of film noir. The basic ingredients of film noir are a major score (in this case the robbing of a bank), a double cross and an engaging hero, who, along with the audience, doesn’t know who to trust or who not to. Mr. Kormakur has made a riveting movie where the action is exciting and makes sense (a lot of the action in movies today is just for show) as well as a mystery about whose money was robbed, who’s after the money and who’s going to end up with the money. The two stars, Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, are stuck in the middle but their appeal and chemistry make it easy for us to latch on to their fates.
Mr. Washington’s Robert Trench is the one who’s grounded. He wants to be in control of any situation he’s involved with. He thinks things out, plans and then strategizes. Mr. Wahlberg’s Michael "Stigs" Stigman regards caution as a speed bump. He believes he can adapt to any situation and runs head long into the chaos confident that his skills- both wit and athleticism- will bail him out. His recklessness is agreeable only because his motives are honorable. He believes in loyalty to his friends and to the organizations of which he joined. Bobby has been scarred by both associates and by organizations and analyzes all with suspicion. It’s a wonderful pairing both in characters and in the actors who play them. Their sparing and attempts to clean up their mess by using opposing strategies is entertaining. But even this caliber of talent would be wasted if it wasn’t for a great story and good script.
The screenwriter Blake Masters has written a movie, based on the graphic novel by Steven Grant, where the story not only has baffled the main characters but keeps the audience off balance. Stigs and Bobby have teamed up to rob a bank where they think a Mexican drug lord (Edward James Olmos) has stashed his laundered money. When the deed is done they are happy to learn there’s a lot more money then what was expected but are baffled by the lack of resistance. They each went into the robbery with different motives, none of which would have benefited their partner. The larger and more powerful parties who are interested in the money put Stig’s and Bobby’s fates on a rollercoaster. Mr. Master has done a wonderful job of weaving a web of deception that keeps the audience from ever guessing what the next scene will bring. Adversaries in one scene must partner up in the next; a reliable collaborator may turn into a betrayer.
The script is sharp and we get a sense of who Bobby and Stig are by just listening to them converse. With the exception of a few throw away lines helping to establish Stig’s flirtatious nature toward the opposite sex the dialogue between two clever opposites adds flavor to an intriguing story.
The supporting characters are well shaped and Mr. Kormakur has filled the supporting roles with some wily veterans. There are not many varying degrees from which to choose on how to play a Mexican drug lord. Salma Hayek in "Savages" had her daughter’s love to worry about as well as the productivity of her cartel. There is nothing differentiating Mr. Olmos’ drug lord from any other but he is engaging in a brutal way. He is threatening but allows enough humanity to drip out for us to care about his bafflement over the mysteries hanging over the money. Bill Paxton is the C.I.A representative whose mind has run off the tracks. Mr. Paxton turns up the voltage making his performance menacingly juicy. Paula Patton seems a little light as a DEA agent but the perception puts us on unsteady ground when the story begins to shift. We buy into her role after we’ve been through the first twist and turns of the story.
Mr. Kormakur does a nice job of keeping the suspense throughout the movie. There are pockets within the action where these two characters grow on each other and our affection for them grows as well. Mr. Kormakur films the fight scenes and chase sequences clearly which is a rarity this summer. But its best feature is two main characters an audience can put their faith into and take a ride with in an exciting and suspenseful movie.