DEA agent Bob Trench (Denzel Washington) and Navy Intelligence officer Mike Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) are both undercover, infiltrating the Mexican drug cartel run by Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). But neither of them knows that the other is actually one of the “good guys” when they rob a small town bank that they think holds Greco’s money. Soon, Greco is after them, the CIA is after them, and both sides have been disavowed by their respective bosses. They’re left with nothing to count on but each other, even if they don’t like each other one bit.
In 2012, Wahlberg threw his biceps behind the direction of Baltasar Kormakur in the dud Contraband (clue: movies released in January aren’t expected to be good; see: Broken City, Gangster Squad). Thankfully, their second collaboration, this summer’s 2 Guns, is quite a bit better, thanks to Wahlberg’s onscreen banter with Washington, as they play out the heist/buddy cop/action flick based on the graphic novel by Steven Grant, who has written Hardy Boys Casefiles and episodes of CSI. Grant’s material shines as Wahlberg and Washington clash with each other, and a series of vindictive bad guys, culminating in a classic gunfight.
The additional cast adds enough spice to make it feel bigger than just a cardboard copy of the same ol’ caper. Paula Patton takes a turn as Trench’s ex-girlfriend/current fling, while Bill Paxton’s Earl steals every scene with his Russian roulette schtick (and one nasty index card-plus-tacks combination). Robert John Burke, James Marsden, and Fred Ward also get their chances to make a mark, and suddenly, a late summer action flick has more “class” than we normally expect.
But, let’s be real, it’s the Wahlberg and Washington show.
I’m a fan of these guys, even in stinkers like Contraband and the less-than-expected Safe House (February 2012… almost January) that these guys have starred in lately. But this movie is genuinely funny, and the comedy weighs more than the sometimes too complicated, sometimes too predictable, plot. There are stylish shots and crazy explosions, but the biggest “oohs” in the theater came after a series of one-liners from Wahlberg or a witty Washington retort.
As always, I found a theme that stood out. Stigman wants Trench to recognize that they’re “people,” that they have something in common and that they can count on each other. Trench stands by the belief that there is “no code” that anyone needs to live by, that each person is in it for themselves. They discuss this periodically throughout the movie, but it’s only resolved when Stigman proves to Trench that he believes in the code of family, vengeance, and standing together by actually following through on it, even when Trench is prepared to concede failure and disappear.
Often, discussions of love and faith work that way. Someone with no reference to faith in general or belief in anything (that they recognize) can’t “make the switch” until someone lays their comfort or security on the line by living it out. I believe that their are divine, spiritual movements going through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but there’s also the example set by Jesus’ example and followthrough. If he had preached so many of these things and not been willing to die, or had chosen violence instead, would his teachings (especially the Beatitudes) carry any weight? The example was proved in the followthrough.
2 Guns is pretty straightforward popcorn fare. But recognizing the need for a code (and acknowledging that everyone follows one, one way or another), we may see that we can live our lives selfishly or selflessly. That our actions choose one or the other, even if our discussions imply that we haven’t chosen.
Everyone chooses. What choice have you made?