2 Guns is forgettable junk-food cinema

2-guns-movie-posterThere is only one thing that offends me in cinema. I mean really, just one thing. I might not like a movie, I may even outright hate it, but the only thing that really offends me is a film that is utterly, completely forgettable—the kind of junk-food filmmaking that consumes time and brain activity and returns absolutely nothing. 2 Guns, the new movie from Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur (Contraband), is both horribly mediocre and shamelessly pandering, and even just hours after seeing it I can barely remember anything about it except that I’m annoyed that I wasted my time.

This is the worst kind of movie to review because it’s just decent enough on a filmmaking level that I can’t complain about technicalities. This is a proficient film, competently made, that meets all the basic requirements of a visual medium. It isn’t headache-inducing, the action is easy enough to follow, there are no inexplicable camera techniques like Dutch angles or ramping to unnecessarily confuse the eye, and it’s mercilessly light on shaky cam. But nothing about how 2 Guns was made is ever any better than just “good enough”. At every level it’s the barest minimum of functional and no more, and that goes for the acting and writing, too.

The faces of engaged, dynamic acting.
The faces of engaged, dynamic acting.

The plot revolves around two undercover agents, Bobby (Denzel Washington) and Stig (Mark Wahlberg), who are partners in some nebulous criminal enterprise, except that Bobby is with the DEA and Stig is with Naval Intelligence and they don’t know the other is an undercover agent until a bank robbery results in a clusterfuck of double-crosses and betrayal. It’s all just functional enough to get from one plot point to the next, but there are huge gaping potholes in this story. For instance, what is Naval Intelligence doing stringing along drug dealers in Mexico? I get the DEA being involved, but why was Stig with the Navy? Every time his Navy-ness came up I kept thinking, What possible stake could the Navy have in all this?

Whatever, my daughter wanted a pony.
Whatever, my daughter wanted a pony.

It hardly matters, though. It’s all just gears grinding to keep the action advancing to the inevitable showdown at the drug cartel’s home base. Bobby and Stig team up to try and straighten out the tangled mess of motivations and back-stabbing that surrounds them, including Stig’s asshole CO (James Marsden at his weaseliest) and Bobby’s on-off girlfriend and fellow DEA agent (Paula Patton, who appeared to be drunk throughout the entire making of the movie). In the mix, too, are Edward James Olmos as the predictably vengeful cartel boss and Bill Paxton providing the only signs of life as a murderous CIA operative. It’s very easy to see every twist and turn coming from a mile away because 2 Guns has no interest in challenging or surprising the audience. This movie was designed to merely take up time and money.

What do you mean, "We're all out of tequila?"
What do you mean, “We’re all out of tequila?”

Not every movie has to be high art but I do need some level of engagement in order to invest in the story and characters. Pacific Rim fell short for me, but I do recognize that it was made with a great deal of care and attention, and everyone involved seemed to be having fun. No one in 2 Guns looks like they’re having fun. They all look like they’re calculating how to spend their paychecks, with Paula Patton possibly also considering how much vodka was left in her trailer. But it meets the most basic rubric for acceptable filmmaking so it can’t be panned as a shitty movie. 2 Guns isn’t a shitty movie. It isn’t anything. It’s just a completely forgettable, wholly inconsequential cinematic Twinkie. Sure you can consume it, but it will probably give you cancer.

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