2 Guns -- which I liked a lot -- I felt almost like it was a tribute film, a buddy crime thriller reminiscent of so many good 1970s thrillers.
Low-level criminals Bobby Beans (Denzel Washington) and Michael 'Stig' Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) have been working together, providing odds and ends for a drug cartel for almost a year now. When a deal with cartel kingpin Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos) doesn't go quite as planned, Bobby goes along with Stig's plan that he's been brewing about for months. Greco keeps a ridiculous amount of money as the Tres Cruces bank, somewhere around $3 million. Bobby and Stig are both keeping a secret from each other though, Bobby an undercover D.E.A. agent, Stig an undercover agent with Navy Intelligence. With backing from their supervisors, they pull off the robbery but get far more than they expected. Someone is setting them up. There isn't $3 million in the bank, and it doesn't belong to Greco. There's $43 million, and its powerful owner (Bill Paxton) wants it back at all costs.
It was hard not to like this movie. From director Baltasar Kormakur (who worked with Wahlberg on Contraband), 'Guns' is based off a graphic novel of the same name. It received mixed reviews last summer, but audiences seemed to like it, piling up a $131 million box office. The appeal is obvious, a buddy flick along the U.S./Mexico border with drug cartels, shootouts, corrupt government agencies, some cool car chases, and two very likable leads. Watching the DVD special features, writer Blake Masters clearly is a fan of the genre, mentioning Sam Peckinpah and Butch and Sundance as influences. The graphic novel author, Steven Grant, is the same way, a huge fan of where this genre has come from. Above all else, this is a really fun movie. It's content to be fun too, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Before I figured out what the story was about, my initial reaction was.....come on, do I really need to spell it out? It's Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, two of my favorite actors, working together!! How can that go wrong? I submit that IT CANNOT. That's the beauty of films like this. You get two or three or four actors/actresses, hand them a script and let them go. These are fun parts that Washington and Wahlberg clearly had some fun bringing to life. Buddy/road movies like this have a perfection in following their formula. Two guys working together, not quite trusting each other but they don't have any other options, and everyone is against them. Their personalities are different -- Bobby quieter, smooth and charming, Stig a motor-mouthed, likable tough guy -- but really? They're not so different. Similar backgrounds, similar loyalties when it comes to getting the job done.
It doesn't hurt that both Washington and Wahlberg are two very likable actors on-screen. Nowhere is that more evident than their dialogue together. These are fast-paced, lightning-quick delivered scenes that certainly reflect two guys who've spent too much time together doing shady deals for drug cartels. The opening scene has Stig in a diner trying to order breakfast for Bobby, Bobby correcting everything that's said and then arguing about why the other one was so very wrong. It's a formula that's used a handful of times in some contagiously funny scenes, Stig trying to convince Bobby that they're actually friends, Bobby stubborn as ever in opening up some. Just a fun to watch and listen to chemistry that gives a humorous edge to the crime aspect of the story.
As for the rest of the cast, they're there to keep us guessing. Who's good? Who's bad? Who's got some tricks up their sleeve? Olmos is having some fun as Papi Greco, smooth and slimy, always ready to turn on anyone for a payday. Paula Patton gets the eye candy role (the topless eye candy, very essential to the story) as Deb, Bobby's quasi-girlfriend and contact officer within the D.E.A., Robert John Burke as Jessup, their commanding officer. Paxton gets to ham it up as Earl, the man who wants his money back, greasy hair, thin mustache and quirky to a T. James Marsden is good too as Quince, Stig's commanding officer within Navy Intelligence trying to put together a hugely successful case. Even Fred Ward makes a quick appearance as a Navy Admiral who may be able to help Stig. Definitely some fun, cool parts.
I just liked this movie, plain and simple. It reminded me of everything from Charley Varrick (robbing mafia money) to The Outfit (low level hoods) to Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (the border setting). There is absolutely nothing wrong with a movie wanting to be entertaining with absolutely no other intentions. By the time the story builds to a showdown at Greco's Mexican villa, it's just too perfect. About 28 different sides in a glorious shootout with a whole lot of money on the line. It's hard not to like movies about this. A buddy/road movie with tones of film noir, 1970s crime thrillers and that oh so perfect pulpy feel, how can you lose?
2 Guns (2013): ***/****