Monday, August 5, 2013

Two Stars: 2 GUNS

2 Guns is a consequence free thriller about a big stack of money ($43.125 million, to be precise) that a whole bunch of guys with guns would love to get ahold of. We’re supposed to be charmed by it because Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg are so very charming and play the two guns at the center of it all with the script by Blake Masters featuring a bunch of twinkly-eyed buddy-buddy banter. Unfortunately, that’s not quite enough here. This movie’s plot is spectacularly empty, a big bland clunker. The money’s a MacGuffin, nothing more than a reason for characters to scramble about pointing guns at each other and demanding the money for one reason or another. But here’s a movie that goes even further. As twists turn and loyalties flip, it’s all too clear that the movie’s all MacGuffin. I found it arbitrary and uninvolving all the way through.

The movie opens with Washington and Wahlberg prepping to rob a bank, then flashes back to fill us in on the events of the previous week. The bank robbery is the central inciting incident of all conflict to follow, but this is nothing if not a movie that loves to explain things without ever really setting up a convincing reason as to why these particular characters are ones we should care about. They’re both undercover operatives trying to steal the money, which they’re told belongs to a Mexican drug kingpin (Edward James Olmos). Washington is with the DEA. Wahlberg is with the US Navy Intelligence. The funny part is supposed to be that neither knows the other’s undercover until the robbery’s aftermath in which it’s clear that, independently, a Naval officer (James Marsden), a DEA agent (Paula Patton), and a CIA operative (Bill Paxton) would like to locate the money, by gunpoint if necessary. And you know the kingpin’s out for blood and bills as well. Though it’s potentially funny that most people scrambling for the money are agents of the federal government – the set up for satire is certainly there – the movie never even threatens to develop a thought.

Events that follow are largely flippantly presented as anonymous bad (I guess?) guys are gunned down and large explosions and dead characters can be waved away in a scene. Washington’s character sees not one, but two supporting characters killed because of his actions, but in the next scene he’s bouncing off to the next banter session, car chase, and gunfight as if he’s over it already. It’s a film that’s interested in little more than the chummy faux-antagonistic interplay between two leads who are charming here with thin material, but who could really hit it out of the park with actually witty dialogue. Here they’re just stuck grinding through the tediously uninspired thriller plotting snapping faded copy-of-a-copy one-liners back and forth. There’s thinness about most every aspect of the movie. The characters that aren’t the central pair are mostly one-note scenery chewing opportunities, but worst is the treatment of Patton’s character. She’s first a nakedly ogled love interest, then a victimized damsel in distress, and finally summarily dispatched from the proceedings with little emotional concern.

Still, I appreciate director Baltasar Korm├íkur’s approach to the movie’s physicality. The style here is nicely crunchy. When a car drives through a fence, it looks like a car really drove through a fence. When a car blows up, it looks like a car blowing up. It’s the little things, you know? I found 2 Guns to be only an exercise in emptiness, much like his last shoot-‘em-up heist film, also with Wahlberg, Contraband, but without that film’s minor pleasures. Though welcome as it is that this particular movie’s busy nothingness stays relatively earthbound, it’s never a good sign when you find yourself wondering with every scene why you should care about anything that’s been happening and anything that will happen. The movie’s just too complicatedly uncomplicated to find the time or space to make a case for its own existence.

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