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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

PCB Film Review: 2 Guns

2 Guns promises to be a buddy action film, and in that it delivers. It also delivers some interesting - and perhaps to some, unwelcome - other features.

The chemistry between Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg is undeniable. I'm in the middle of watching through the original I Spy with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby, and I must say, besides the obvious parallel of a black guy and a white guy, the feel of the relationship between these two actors is very similar. There's a fun they are having with the banter. While not quite as off the cuff as I Spy, Washington and Wahlberg convincingly portray two guys using humor to make the most of a bad situation.

The premise is that Robert Trench (Washington) and Michael Stigman (Wahlberg) are two low lifes who in reality are each undercover as part of the US government - Trench is DEA, Stigman is US Navy. They believe they are trying to pull down a drug cartel, whose kingpin, played by Edward James Olmos, stores his ill gotten gains in a savings and loan in Texas. Neither of them know the other is undercover, but what they really don't know is that they are both being double crossed. Or triple crossed. After a while, it's hard to tell.

Spoilers ahead, if you care.

If I get this right (and I have seen the film, but I'm still not 100% sure), Trench's sort of girlfriend, another DEA agent (played by the enticing Paula Paxton) is also in bed (literally and metaphorically) with Stigman's CO Quince (James Marsden), who both know that the money paid to the Texas savings and loan by the drug kingpin isn't his stash, but is in fact illegal bribe money to the CIA, specifically an agent named Earl (Bill Paxton). Our heroes end up stealing the money, which is $43.125 million (as Earl keeps reminding everyone) instead of the $3 million both Trench and Stigman expected. Once the heist is complete, the boys start to find out the truth about who is doing what, which leads them on a path back and forth over the US/Mexican border.

As mentioned above, the relationship developed between Trench and Stigman is entertaining, and in my view is the only reason to see the film. There are some nice explosions, a gun fight or two, but the story is not terribly original (neo-feminists will wonder why the only significant female character ends up tied up despite the fact that she is a qualified DEA agent), and the premise is pretty unbelievable.

For one thing, why is the US Navy involved in undercover operations in the first place? Maybe I missed it, but I've never heard of the US Navy being involved in sting operations versus a drug cartel, and the movie doesn't appear to explain why. Next, there is a throwaway line from the drug kingpin that essentially says "all of the CIA is dirty and involved in drug trafficking." Maybe the writer didn't intend it to come off that way, but that's how I heard it. What's more, when the Navy finds out that one of their commanding officers is involved in stealing millions of dollars, an admiral is shown saying he'd rather cover it up that bring him to justice. Really? I mean, cover ups definitely happen, but if this film is to be believed, nobody should ever trust a branch of the US government. Is that really what the filmmakers want us to take away from this film?

There is another agenda that is sort of thrust in here, as well, that of the plight of people entering the US from Mexico. The good news is that this is at least somewhat appropriate to the film's locale, and from what I know of illegal immigration, relatively accurate. I only mention it because the movie spends about five minutes showing us the process, and even goes so far as to have Trench save one of the other people when he slips into a rushing river. I noted that nobody else even bothered to try to help.

Maybe I'm on the wrong side of this. Maybe most people see the government as the enemy these days. I'm certainly not suggesting there isn't reason to mistrust some folks in the CIA, DEA, military, etc. But I'm still of the opinion that there are plenty of people in these organizations that are trustworthy and honorable. The filmmakers couldn't find one of them in their story? Heck, one good guy, willing to help, and then getting killed by a bad guy would have been enough. The world this film lives in doesn't appear to have anybody in it like that, and there's no real explanation as to why.

A formulaic story, with the typical roles filled in by bad guys who should be good guys, just made whatever good work Washington and Wahlberg did get wasted. Maybe someone should "Marvel Universe" I Spy and reboot it with these gents in the starring roles. At least then the villains would be easier to cast.

2 Guns
In theatres now

4 out of 10... guns.

p.s. double spoiler alert:

At one point, Trench drives a convertible Impala into Mexico with $43.125 million in it (well, probably $41.125 million). As the camera follows the car from above, it is obvious that there are stacks and stacks of money in the back seat, and the trunk is weighed down with even more in the trunk.

Thing is, all of that money was under a bed in a motel in Texas.

How, then, fair reader, did Mr. Trench manage to get all of that loot across the border? Huh? HUH!?

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