MOVIE REVIEW: ‘2 Guns’ simply not enough

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First Posted: 8/5/2013

The common defense with movies like “2 Guns,” a buddy-buddy blow ‘em up, is that you have to let your brain go slack and enjoy the spectacle. I can go for that, but not when the plot is constructed with the same kind of effort reserved for grocery lists. Built on the sweat of a dozen better movies, director Baltasar Kormákur turns the knob to 11 and dares us to hate his latest effort.

No problem there.

Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg star, respectively, as Bobby Trench and Michael Stigman. Trench is a DEA agent; Stigman is a naval intelligence officer. The two men rob a small-town bank, thinking they’re a step closer to busting a drug lord (Edward James Olmos). Instead, they enter into a world of trouble.

Trench and Stigman think the other is the bad guy, a ruse that is lifted when the two face-off post-getaway. Once the misunderstandings are ironed out and proper introductions are made, the reluctant partners discover they’ve actually stolen, and misplaced, $41 million that belongs to the CIA. They need to find the money and figure out who has set them up before they’re killed by one of several angry, well-armed parties.

“2 Guns” is a cartoon – Trench and Stigman survive bullets, car wrecks, and repeated blows to the gut with a metal rod – but it’s a joyless and derivative one. Hollywood has excelled at high-octane, chatty movies like “2 Guns” for a long time. (Your “Men in Black” is my “Midnight Run.”) Kormákur proceeds as if no one has never seen two bickering partners grow to trust each other or discover that deceit goes all the way to…the…top! Has Shane Black taught us nothing?

The plot in “2 Guns” exists to get us to the next bro-worthy explosion, so its twists and turns are empty gestures – a way to distract us from an endlessly stupid movie that consists of gunfights, classic cars getting destroyed, and Paula Patton in her underpants. There are so many unanswered questions that this review threatens to become a philosophical treatise. How did Stigman and Trench first meet? How could the CIA just dump millions in cash into a bank? How could Trench trust somebody who ignored his tip regarding the hold-up? The list goes on.

You hope that star power will save the day. It does not. Wahlberg is about 10 years too old to play the young hotshot, and Washington has portrayed this kind of bitter badass so many times that here it’s like watching a clock tick: efficient, predictable, and boring. The most memorable aspect of the characters is their clothing, whether it’s Patton’s lack thereof, Washington’s snazzy fedoras from the Spike Lee Collection, or Olmos’ suits, which make him look like the owner of a particularly prosperous New Orleans bordello.

“2 Guns” is so concerned with size and flash and noise – the Mexican standoff involves a helicopter, for crying out loud – that I’m not sure if Kormákur views the audience with contempt or is so consumed with appearance that nothing else matters. Either mindset leads to the same intolerable big budget fare with the same unfortunate message: style, no matter how grating, triumphs over substance.

Rating: W

-For more of Pete’s cinematic musings, please visit or follow him on Twitter, @PeteCroatto.