Published Aug 01, 2013Much like Contraband, the previous collaboration between Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur and Mark Wahlberg, 2 Guns is far more entertaining and darkly hilarious than it has any right to be. Both films are ostensibly about the same thing — petty crime gone out of control — utilizing a sarcastic, irreverent tone to reassert a dominant ideology about greed and capitalist indulgence, but fuelling it with gritty, antediluvian action and a smartass indifference towards didactical posturing.
Of distinction, beyond the inclusion of Denzel Washington, is the intricacy of narrative; it's twisty, deceptive, playful and altogether ridiculous, implicating financial subterfuge as a ubiquitous form of survival, regardless of enterprise and social status. But before we get to this somewhat irresponsible poke at Western corruption, Bobby (Washington) and Stig (Wahlberg) set out to rob a small-town bank, burning down the popular doughnut shop across the street to ensure minimal disruption before donning some Halloween masks and blowing up a vault full of safety deposit boxes.
Both criminals, perpetually bickering, discussing how much to tip a waitress before decimating her place of employment, are expecting a minor haul from the job, assuming the finances and business of low-level drug trafficker Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos) will be enclosed. What they find is an absurdist influx of cash well beyond the scope of a relatively insignificant player, which leads to double-crosses, revelations of bigger conspiracies and involvements with government and military enterprises that may, or may not, have ties to the world of international drug sales.
In part, the fun in this populist throwback stems from the gradual revelation of increasingly hyperbolized conspiratorial elements. Early on, we learn that Bobby might not be whom he says he is after his conversation with DEA agent Deb (Paula Patton) quickly turns romantic and heads into the bedroom. Who she is and how the DEA is involved with an inexplicable small scale bank robbery gone out of control, or why such an agency would be exploited, generates much of the mystery.
What's most effective is the interplay that stems from distrust. In a situation where allegiances are questioned and identity is inconsistent, malfeasance and misanthropy are implicit, which ultimately ends up defining the narrative. Though Bobby and Stig wind up on the receiving end of multiple beatings from a well connected, but deliberately undefined man of means (Bill Paxton), the connecting element is there reluctance to trust each other despite needing to for survival.
While it all boils down to above-average buddy comedy dynamics, with the relationship between Wahlberg and Washington playing out as a protracted ersatz-romance, the sly, pseudo-anarchic underbelly of what is being said beyond that is quite intriguing. In a world where our collective parents (government, military, church, etc.) are inherently corrupt and deceitful, the only things we can truly rely on are the relationships forged with our fellow man.
In a culture that demands allegiance and assimilation, where adherence to rules, despite the illusion of freedom, is paramount, this seemingly simple message comes across as surprisingly subversive and almost reckless, which speaks mostly to the complacence being criticized obliquely throughout this fun action comedy. (eOne)