I’m working under the assumption that Mark Wahlberg isn’t particularly bright. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Wahlberg with that statement; I don’t think he’s a total moron and he seems like an affable enough guy. But his persona, whether real or an elaborate performance art piece, is that of kind of a doofus. It is what it is and if I had abs like his I wouldn’t care if I didn’t know what the Pythagorean Theorem was. God doesn’t always give with two hands, so the combination of brilliant and extremely good looking rarely comes in the same package. I guess I just got lucky. 🙂
My mileage on my enjoyment of the artist formerly known as Marky Mark really depends on how they portray this dumbness. When tempered with just the right amount of earnestness or with a twist of humor, I like him quite a bit (see Ted, Date Night, Boogie Nights). He also tends to elevate his game when paired with stronger actors (see The Fighter) or when he has a supporting role (see The Departed). When asked to shoulder a movie or when the earnestness is laid on too thick or isn’t appropriate for the situation, I am less impressed (see Pain & Gain (actually don’t – it’s the worst) or Broken City). Play to
2 Guns fortunately has many of the elements for an enjoyable Wahlberg performance – he is paired with Denzel Washington, who can make most things better, and his character seems very close to what I perceive as Wahlberg’s actual personality – a kind of wide eyed guy who cracks some jokes and winks at waitresses. The movie isn’t flawless, but was for the most part was fairly amusing given the chemistry between the two leads. 2 Guns plants itself firmly in the “good Wahlberg” zone.
In the film, Washington and Wahlberg have joined forces to rob a bank; what they don’t realize is that they are both undercover – Washington as a DEA agent and Wahlberg as a naval intelligence officer – and are using the other one to take the fall. They don’t discover the other’s identity until the job goes very wrong and they discover that they were both being set up; the question is by who. The two have to work together and form an uneasy alliance to find out who has put them in the position while outrunning multiple law enforcement agencies and a drug cartel or two. You know, a regular Tuesday.
One of the surprising discoveries of 2 Guns was just how well Wahlberg and Washington play off each other. The actors really balance each other out and the film is at its best when it is just the two of them bantering. Wahlberg’s earnestness is a nice counterpoint to Washington’s cool demeanor. Both actors can be badass when they need to be, but their moments of levity are the high points of the film. In a lot of ways, 2 Guns is a buddy cop film at is heart and I would totally watch a subsequent pairing of Washington and Wahlberg down the road. I liked watching them interact.
The problem with 2 Guns is when the story gets in the way; the film has a bit of an identity crisis and can’t quite decide if it wants to be a comedy, a drama or an action film. There are elements of all these genres in the film, but they never quite gel together. It feels a little disjointed when all the pieces are assembled. The story also gets in the way; about halfway through the film I realized that the resolution of how they got in this situation was going to be completely unsatisfying and unnecessarily convoluted and I was correct. It really didn’t make a ton of sense and the need to make everything complicated took me out of the final act of the film a bit. If this could have just been a movie about Wahlberg and Washington going to breakfast at diners and bickering like an old married couple, I would have been happier.
That’s not to say that the action sequences in and of themselves didn’t work; 2 Guns avoids the mistakes that other films has made and thankfully keeps the explosions to a minimum and the shootouts short and to the point. Far too many summer movies have long, mind-numbing action scenes (Man of Steel, I’m looking at you, pal) that lose their excitement well before they are over. 2 Guns sticks to the short bursts of excitement model and is the better for it. They were doled out sparingly and were way more effective. Plus I don’t recall seeing cows used a hurdle in a shootout before outside of a Western (don’t worry about the cows – they appeared to be fine. I wouldn’t get too attached to the chickens, though).
Some other thoughts:
- It was driving me crazy during the film trying to figure out who played Earl and Quince; I knew that I recognized both actors, but couldn’t for the life of me place who they were. Turns out that it was Bill Paxton and James Marsden respectively. Marsden I should have gotten, but Paxton was pretty unrecognizable except for his voice.
- Sigh – they just HAD to work a clown into the story, didn’t they? Thankfully we don’t see much of Wahlberg in that creepy mask, but I was not a fan.
- There are clearly some holes in this plot big enough to drive a Mack truck through. I’m still not really clear how the Navy got mixed up in this whole thing.
- Word to the wise – if four teenagers on a double date sit down in front of you at the movie, save yourself the hassle and just move. They aren’t going to shut up at any point and the girls are going to giggle incessantly. I did a cost benefit analysis of dumping my soda on them but decided to show some restraint.
- Wahlberg was on Late Night Jimmy Fallon to promote the movie, so they took the occasion to break out another installment of Brian Williams raps, Marky Mark edition:
Wahlberg didn’t stick around the show to play a game in the second segment, however, so he loses points in my book. I totally judge the guests that don’t.
- I don’t know the last time I’ve been as excited for a movie as I am for American Hustle. The trailer ran before 2 Guns and I was positively giddy. Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Amy Adams in a movie directed by David O. Russell and set in the 1970s? Sign me up!
- 2 Guns continued the unfortunate trend of Washington getting older and his love interests staying the same age (see the infographic from Vulture below). This is the second time Paula Patton has been called upon to be romanced by Mr. Washington.
2 Guns was mostly a fun movie thanks to some unexpectedly delightful rapport between Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. The story only inhibits the film, though there are some nice moments of both action and comedy. I don’t know if it is worth plunking down your hard earned cash to see it in the theater, but it would be a solid selection for a rental or a pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon when the film inevitable winds up on FX. I’d like to see more of this duo in the future; perhaps they can team up again on another project with a better script.
2 Guns opens nationwide today.