Sons of guns
When their own people turn on them, two men have to go it alone but do so together
Posted: October 9, 2013
Best friends, and they don't even know it. It takes a while, but sooner or later these two crime fighters learn they have to trust each other.
It's all about the dinero. In the case of 2 Guns, more than 43 million George Washingtons. It is drug money, of course, but the story is a little different from your usual "wrong side of the border" narratives. This time, the CIA is the bad guys.
The good guys are the ones who rob a bank in a small Texan town close to the border with Mexico. They're Bobby and Stig, played by Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, respectively. In the opening scene, Bobby goes to a bank to get his own safe-deposit box, checking out the tiny bank branch in the process, while his partner in crime, Stig, sits at a booth in a diner opposite that claims to have the best donuts in three counties. There's some banter that shows the two guys seem to know each other really well, and it ends with the two burning the place down, though nobody gets hurt.
They have a plan, and they certainly seem like career criminals, or at least clever when it comes to crime. But it's all a big facade, as they are both in fact career crime fighters, whose main interest is to get the drug money stored in the bank that belongs to a king pin in Mexico.
Bobby works at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, while Stig is from Naval Intelligence, but both men will soon discover their respective commanders calling the shots can make those shots ring down on them, too, when the temptation of the greenback becomes too great to resist.
Directed by Baltasar Kormákur
With Mark Wahlberg, Denzel Washington, Paula Patton, James Marsden
When that happens, their initial surprise at discovering the other isn't who he is pretending to be turns to camaraderie that director Baltasar Kormákur, who also directed Wahlberg in the 2011 drug film Contraband, tries to keep from getting too serious, despite a slightly odd scene about halfway through where they should be fighting but end up rolling around in the hay (well, a field), holding each other very tightly. It's funny, but it's also a little predictable.
2 Guns is a refreshing departure from the usual drug movies in the sense that we get very few shoot-'em-up scenes (although one scene with chickens getting shot at is shockingly violent), and we never see anybody using the drugs. It's all about the money. And the involvement of the CIA in the drug trade is not only attention-grabbing but perhaps wholly credible, given the kinds of things we've learned about the U.S. government over the past decade. Perhaps tipping its hat in that direction, the film nearly ventures into forbidden territory when Stig wants to waterboard Mexican drug boss Papi Greco. Luckily, for the sake of the film, he never gets that far.
Far from being absurd - unlike the Schwarzenegger drug-busting film, The Last Stand, released earlier this year - 2 Guns tries to stay on the right side of serious, adding many twists and turns to keep our attention, although the story doesn't always progress very fluidly, and the motives for changes in location and vehicle are often not accounted for.
One particular location that is underutilized is the border between the United States and Mexico. Instead of using the Rio Grande and the immediate region around the border to create tension, there is a simple shot of legs knee-deep in water to convey the idea people are crossing from Mexico into the United States. There was a scene earlier with vigilante border guards, on the U.S. side, of course, but it served no real purpose besides injecting some red-neck comedy.
The woman deeply implicated in the development of the film, whose role is, however, never properly fleshed out, is Deb, also from the DEA but not exactly straight as an arrow. Perhaps her part is never fully explained because it keeps us in the dark as much as the two main characters are, but we ultimately lose interest, since she is very weak and often plays the victim.
The main reason to watch the film should be the almost-friendship between Bobby and Stig, even though they never really trust each other, until the visuals make it unquestionably clear that they have each other's back, by literally having them stand back to back during a shootout inspired by Michael Bay, as the camera dollies around them in slow-motion. It's more than a little embarrassing, but since the tone is deliberately relaxed rather than cool, this approach doesn't seem entirely out of place.
Washington and Wahlberg have less chemistry than you would expect from actors of their caliber, but they try their best delivering biting but playful lines that both provoke and draw them closer together, and while Kormákur doesn't deliver any exhilarating scenes, his film is entirely adequate, and a pleasant way to spend your time.
André Crous can be reached at