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Cinema Signal: Action, greed and two hilarious agents of comedic repartee. Green light!. MOBILE: variagate.com/cinsigsm.htm?mobi |
. "2 Guns"

Marcus "Stig" Stigman (Mark Wahlberg, "Contraband") and Robert "Bobby" Trench (Denzel Washington, "Flight") may not be the best buddy cop duo, but they are the funniest -- thanks to the deft dialogue and script construction by screenwriters Blake Masters and Steven Grant and triple-threat (includes actor & producer) action director Baltasar Kormakur ("Contraband") who hails from Reykjavik, Iceland and shares a mutual affection with Wahlberg, his star of that earlier collaboration.

Everything in "2 Guns" is about engaging the largest number of good and bad guys, (where the distinction is about as clear as liquid TNT), into a chase for a cache of money claimed by all interested parties, ending with a wrap-up that is neither neat, justified or comfortable. I take that back. It is neat. Think Sergio Leone's masterpiece of story construction and character creation, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."

For years ever since, the pattern of a complex crowd of shady characters who are after a big payoff in a maze-like puzzle of interwoven chases, claims, crimes, criminal savvy, action, mistrust, betrayal, twists and countertwists has been emulated, sometime to great effect. In fact, Bill Paxton, who here plays Earl, the government agent (read CIA), has done something like this before in "A Simple Plan" (1998) and in the ingenious "One False Move" (1992) which made me a Paxton fan forever. If you haven't seen these two films, Netflix them.

The undercover "partners" in crime have no idea what the other is except tough as jail bars and as sensitive. As much competitors as temporary collaborators, they swear no affection or allegience to one another as they do verbal skits about being non-partners in a drug deal to incriminate Mexican cartel drug lord Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). They're working together on this while ridiculing the concept of "together." Neither has any fondness or trust toward the other, but they sit in the diner like chums, thinking about knocking off the bank across the street where, it's said, Papi has secreted some yankee dollars.

The diner has two things going for it if you don't count the waitress: The claim of having the best donuts in three counties, and that it has a perfect view of the Tres Cruces Savings & Loan.

When they travel across the border to pay Papi for drugs, a deal designed to catch the untouchable "jefe" in an illegal activity, Bobby discovers that his inside source in the gang has been killed. The gang thugs grin when they show him the man's head in a carrying bag. Concealing a reaction, our two guys go inside Papi's headquarters to complete the drug deal. But, Papi pulls a fast one on Bobby when he refuses the money on the pretense of having no product. Papi knows what Bobby's up to.

This insult will have its consequences. Still convinced that cartel money is stored at the bank, Bobby's play is to rob it with Stig's and girlfriend Deb's (foxy Paula Paxton) help, then dispose of Stig for a clean getaway with Deb. Expecting something on the order of $3 million, they're stunned when they open the safe boxes in the vault and find every one of them stuffed with money.

They make off with an incredible $43.125 million!, enough for everyone to get aroused. But any thought of a celebration is quenched when Bobby's DEA team and Deb fail to show up as tightly timed in Bobby's plan.

Bobby: The bank was a set-up. We gotta figure out whose money that was.
Stig: What, like we're working together?
Bobby: No, not like we're working together.
Stig: [excitedly] Yeah!
Bobby: No, like we're working in the same vicinity.
Stig: Together.
Bobby: In the same... area code.
Stig: Together.
They sigh. End of trailor clip.

Yes, just whose this much money is, is in question. It's not Papi's, which denies the non-buddies the revenge they were seeking. Who claims it as theirs is the CIA in the form of grandiloquent Earl (Paxton) who has the resources of the U.S. of A. But he's not the only claimant and this is an argument that won't be decided in a court of law. Stig's Naval chief Quince (James Marsden) likes the count, too, and wants the loot for the Navy. The interests are about to collide and no one's safe.

For me, this intricately plotted, comedy-action thriller is laden with creative genius. I know that some critics have been mixed or down on it, but I think they're missing something in the style and intent. Put it together in a sub-genre with the aforementioned crime and comedy puzzlers (from Leone to Carl Franklin) and you'll have the hang of it. It's not to be taken too seriously or literally. It's an exercise in the twist as much as in the tale.

Granted, the movie's riddled with as many holes in its topsy turvy logic as there are in the bullet-ridden vehicles the chase episodes leave behind. So, the question arises: Are these guys truly crooked (as charged) if they're working on orders from, and in the interests of, legitimate agencies who, BTW, condone whatever extreme measure is taken to get the job done. The story doesn't get into constitutional issues, but what it lacks in strict reason it makes up for with an abundance of greed, body count, extravagant destruction and rip-roaring repartee. Given the marquee value of the cast, that should go a long way in terms of entertainment and boxoffice.

Just when I was hoping to avoid another Wahlberg release for awhile (only because he does so many films), here he overcomes my reticence with a role that's perfectly suited to his talent, including comedic timing. Besides his obvious athleticism, which pays off handsomely in this context, his line readings are just about perfect. Washington matches him in verbal fencing as well as charismatic presence. Strong players who give you your money's worth by knowing what to do with the crisp dialogue provided.

For the role of Deb, I was glad Patton won out over Ellen Pompeo and Marisa Tomei. I consider Patton the female Matt Damon for being so naturally sympathetic. She's been underrated and her work here may help correct that.

Olmos delivers enough gruffness to pose a threat without going too far to fit the comedic requirements. Paxton personalizes a comic strip character with his unique shadings to fit into a collection of greedy psychopaths with outlandish personality.

"2 Guns" is based on the Boom! Studios graphic novels.

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                                              ~~  Jules Brenner  

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I've seen the movie and I disagree with the review
Site rating: 5

I completely disagree. This film was a hot mess. I like Paula but she brought nothing to the table and her interaction with Denzel highlighted the fact that they have zero chemistry. When your costar has more chemistry with another man than you, you guys have issues. This film was forgettable. Denzel has been phoning it in for years and this film is the epitome of taking a check.

                                                           ~~ Sarah 


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Denzell Washington and Mark Wahlberg
Bobby and Stig: men with a fortune and no conscience.

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