August 14, 2013
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Bullets & jokes fly as undercover agents find themselves in dirty double cross
Starring Denzel Washington
& Mark Wahlberg
Directed by Baltasar Kormákur
R, 109 min.
Two undercover agents get caught between a brutal Mexican drug cartel and shady American government higher-ups in a deadly, dirty double cross in this gritty buddy-comedy action pic based on a series of comic books.
DEA agent Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington) and U.S. Navy intelligence officer Michael Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) have been working together for three years on busting a ruthless mob kingpin (Edward James Olmos). But both agents are so deep undercover, neither one knows that the other is actually a spy---for someone else.
Once their covers are blown, the plot has thickened into a real spook-soup of a mess, where distinctions between good guys and bad guys melt away in the boiling, South-of-the-border sun.
Olmos is chillingly effective as the dapper Mexican don. Bill Paxton plays a drawly Texan with a vicious stake in getting back a stolen $43 million bank heist. James Marsden is Stigman’s Navy superior with his own designs on the loot. Paula Patton, another DEA operative, works “under (the) cover” in more ways than one with Washington’s character.
But in this kind of movie, you can count on one thing: Like Trench and Stigman, the two cartel infiltrators who turn out to be spies, anyone might turn out to be someone other than who, or what, you think he or she is going to be.
Director Baltasar Kormákur keeps the dialog snappy and the action peppy. Washington and Wahlberg have a natural, easygoing chemistry that serves them well as they toggle back and forth between verbal quips and more rough-and-tumble shootouts, scuffles and other physically demanding aspects of their roles, including one scene in which they’re beaten as they hang upside down, by their feet, in a pen with an angry bull.
But at least they don’t end up like the chickens. Early in the movie, in a scene designed to show just what a bunch of baaaad hombres make up the Mexican cartel, a bunch of them shoot the heads off live chickens that they’ve buried up to their necks in the dirt. To show he’s just as baaaad as they are, Wahlberg’s character grabs one of their pistols and shoots off one of the chicken’s heads, too.
Then he makes a quip, and the audience laughs.
All in a day’s work for an undercover cop infiltrating a Mexican cartel, I suppose. But that was just one scene in a movie with a whole lot guns more than the two its title suggests, with people holding weapons up to other people’s heads and other body parts, setting off explosions in banks, diners and military installations, and shooting, shooting, shooting.
And then joking, joking, joking.
Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s the times, but I’m finding it harder and harder to swallow a movie cocktail that tries to make me laugh in between flying bullets and things that go ka-boom, like “cop buddy comedies” have been doing ever since Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte did it in “48 Hours” back in 1982.
“2 Guns” might hit just the right tone of summer escapism for some, but it left me feeling like I needed to escape, indeed, to somewhere far away from the trigger-happy characters, and unsavory places, of a movie like this.
And I’m still kinda upset about those chickens.