The summer is usually good for one perfect action movie a year. I’m going to include superhero movies in this category. Surprisingly, there is rarely more than one. It seems like 2 Guns (2013) is this year’s perfect action movie. My definition of perfection is where enough of it is good to have fun and nothing is bad. Looking over the 2013 highlights, 2 Guns outstrips its brothers by a fair margin. By my count, there have been, in the possibly decent range, about five conventional-weapon action movies and seven of the CGI variety and all but one suffer from pretty serious ailments. [NB: I put The Lone Ranger (2013) (review) in the adventure category and outside this review’s arbitrary generalizations.] All of them have rushed character development and most have bungled the action such that the only thing you’re aware of is the singing shrapnel (though from whence it came or to where it went is unclear).
Two guys go down to Mexico to meet up with Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos), a notorious drug lord. Lone-wolf misanthrope Bobby Beans (Denzel Washington) always knows a guy and Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) is so cheeky it’s a wonder he’s still alive. I guess that’s because Bobby’s a DEA agent and Stigman is with Naval intelligence (and apparently that entails general bad-assatude. These guys are undercover for their respective agencies, but have no idea about the identity of the other. How this is true when they are both using their real names, one must remain bemused. Stig wants to rob a bank because he thinks that’s where Papi’s money is and this is a special op to wrap up the drug lord’s finances. Bobby wants to rob the bank because it’s his last chance to take Papi down. So they rob the bank, thinking that they’ll be picking up a quick $3 million and Bobby expects his sometimes lover and fellow agent Deb (Paula Patton) to arrest them. Well, it turns out to be $42 million and Deb never shows up. Instead, Stig takes Bobby down and delivers the cash to his CO, Quince (James Marsden), who then turns on him. Uh oh. Meanwhile a menacing fellow named Earl (Bill Paxton) starts to ruthlessly track these guys down because he thinks it’s his money.
In 2 Guns, there is a very efficient division of labor. Washington gets most of the dramatic stuff, Wahlberg gets most of the happy-warrior comedy, Deb has the breasts, Paxton has the evil, Olmos has the mustache, and Marsden comes in to move the plot along when characters get too complacent. If the screenplay from Blake Masters wasn’t as regular in its full-stomach’d hilarity, this movie might have seemed like your typical paint-by-numbers, save-the-cat action movie. A great deal of credit has to go to director Baltasar Kormákur as well for not rushing in any department. Perhaps it’s because he has the precise cast required for the movie. Washington is completely and immediately believable as a gritty pragmatist with emotional problems and nobody plays gleeful bedlam like Mark Wahlberg. When he decides to take on [Spoiler] all by himself with only a trunk full of guns and ammo, somehow it doesn’t seem that preposterous.
I had fun.