Two guns, my foot.
By the time, “Two Guns” is over, you’ve seen and heard a great deal more than just the two guns wielded by our semi-heroes, who are played by the redoubtable Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.
But then you knew that. All that anticipated bulletry and boom and bash is why you’re probably tempted to go. We are, after all, not talking about guns and bullets in the real world whose possession by the most dangerous and unstable among us is among the more tragic conundrums of American life. Some day, Coloradans may be able to go to Christopher Nolan “Batman” movies and first-graders will be able to march to class without imagining horrific consequences.
Not exactly now, though.
Movie guns are different. They spray fake bullets all over the place and the only people hit are those involved in the action – played by actors who are fine, just fine, when the scene is over.
I’ll say this for “Two Guns”: In its intermittent hails of bullets, it has, at least, some sense of the rarity of being shot, even though it makes a rather unfortunate joke of the principals shooting each other comically (?) for protection from others. You might also say that compared to the vast arsenals and body counts of some movies, “Two Guns” is almost like an intramural high school scrimmage. In this movie, when you’re shot in the shoulder, you go to a veterinarian you know to remove the bullet secretly and patch you up. This is a movie that remembers that, just as 1940s crime movies sometimes did.
Fantasy guns, unlike real ones, are those that only go off to advance a movie or TV plot. As Raymond Chandler once confessed, he could always open a door on a man with a gun when stumped about what else to do in a novel.
It’s a reasonably entertaining movie. The requisite wisecracks and observations are even better than the action, which is old school, eschewing CGI and 3-D. (“Nobody’s innocent, kid,” says one guy. “There’s just the guilty, the ignorant and the unlucky.” Later on someone observes that there’s a difference between a “free market” and a “free world.”)
What it’s all about, though, obviously, is its stars, Washington and Wahlberg, two hugely successful practitioners of punch n’crunch shoot ’em ups in our time.
They’re good together, predictably – total pros who know what they’re doing and how to help each other do it.
The premise isn’t bad: They each play undercover government agents. Washington is an undercover DEA operative they call Bobby Beans. Wahlberg is in Naval intelligence, but he’s so far off the grid that there’s no record of him anywhere.
Because the two gun-wielding guys are so deep undercover without the other knowing it, they each accept that the other is a dangerous bad guy.
So, just for laughs, they rob a bank. And discover they’ve filched $43.125 million from its safety deposit boxes. A wee bit more than the $3 million they expected.
Actually, it wasn’t for laughs. It was Wahlberg’s character carrying forth the idea of his Navy intelligence superior. Mark Harmon of TV’s “NCIS” wouldn’t like these people, trust me.
Because it’s based on a graphic novel by Steven Grant and was written by Blake Masters, whose Showtime series “Brotherhood” was the most criminally underrated premium cable beauty of the past decade, this movie has almost as much anti-government skepticism as some paranoid nightmares from the 1970s.
By the time it’s over, we’ve seen agents and operatives from all sorts of government bastions, and you wouldn’t trust one of them to change the batteries in your flashlight.
That’s what makes the story fun. This is action pulp for the era of Edward Snowden.
Paula Patton plays the DEA beauty who sleeps with Washington, only to be told at a crucial moment, “I really meant to love you.” (Not exactly a line likely to inspire romantic loyalty, eh what?)
Wahlberg sleeps alone, though he does, at one point, get into a wrestling match with Washington while deep into their pseudo-rivalry.
To keep this review firmly on the Northern side of Spoilerville, I’m not going to tell you where the $43.125 million came from – or what happens to it when the final fantasy bullet has been fired – but I can tell you this much: Bill Paxton plays its rightful guardian, as this movie might define such things, and with his all-American looks he makes an awfully good greasy, funky villain.
The director, from Iceland, Baltasar Kormakur, is a Wahlberg guy. He directed him in the successful action fodder “Contraband.” What I kept thinking all the way through this efficient brutality is how much Washington might be looking, at this stage, for someone to replace Tony Scott, who made five movies with Washington, including the uproarious and wonderful “Unstoppable” and “Man on Fire.” If this was Washington’s audition of Wahlberg’s man Kormakur, I’d say he passed.
Washington’s old partner Scott, you may remember, tragically jumped to his death off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles almost a year ago. If this movie had ended with one of those melancholy credits that say “this movie is dedicated to the memory of Tony Scott” it would have been appropriate. It’s a slick, cruel, Tony Scott action movie by other means for summer megaplexes.
Starring: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Edward James Olmos
Director: Baltasar Kormakur
Running time: 109 minutes
Rating: R for violence throughout, language and some nudity.
The Lowdown: Undercover agents for the DEA and the Navy get together without knowing who the other is working for and steal $43 million of mysterious money from bank safety deposit vaults.