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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

2 Guns offers a couple of intriguing acting possibilities.

One: Denzel Washington, who has done well on the dramatic and action side, has always shown a flair for humor, yet he hasn’t made many comedies (Carbon Copy in 1981 and Much Ado About Nothing in 1993).

Two: Mark Wahlberg has made a lot of action films, but most of them stink (Contraband, The Big Hit). His comedies, on the other hand, feature some of his very best work, with The Other Guys being a shining example.

So, does 2 Guns provide a chance for Washington to be funnier, and Wahlberg to bring the laughs in an action movie that isn’t completely lame?

The answer: a mild “yes.” 2 Guns gets no accolades for originality, but Washington and Wahlberg are a winning combo—and a nasty turn by Bill Paxton as a satanic CIA man helps things along. This is not a straight-up comedy, but it has a good share of action-comedy laughs.

Washington plays Bobby Trench, an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent trying to take down a Mexican drug cartel led by the dude from Miami Vice and Battlestar Galactica (Edward James Olmos). Wahlberg is Stig, AWOL from the Navy and looking to clear his name, (There’s some other nonsense that I didn’t really follow, too.)

Through a bunch of “only in the movies” circumstances, they find themselves teamed up and robbing a bank—unaware that each of them are undercover, and lying about who they are. They rob the bank expecting to net a certain amount of money, but wind up with a lot more.

Enter Bill Paxton. He proves mightily adept at playing a man with compromised morals. He has a bit involving a Russian-roulette game that is actually quite chilling, and he chews on every line delivery as if it were a mouthful of awesome jerky. I haven’t enjoyed Paxton this much in a movie since he wielded an ax and spouted religious claptrap back in 2001 in the underrated gem Frailty.

The film kicks into a higher gear when the Washington and Wahlberg characters realize each other’s true identities, and they work together to overcome various betrayals and double-crosses inflicted upon them by the CIA, girlfriends, the Navy, the snot-nosed kid down the street, and Jesus. Everybody seems to be out to screw these guys.

I like Wahlberg most when he’s trying to be funny. I especially liked a sequence in which his character is berating a group of men for torturing chickens—while he is chewing on a barbecued chicken leg. His character has a strange sort of exuberance; he's a childlike wonder coupled with a shooter’s eye, and that all makes him a great action-comedy partner.

Washington is often called upon to be serious or bad-ass, plus he gets the occasional chance to cry after it looks like he’s not going to cry. (I will never forget that tear shooting out of his face in Glory.) Here, he’s allowed to cut loose in a way he never has before, and Wahlberg proves to be a great counterpart.

Of course, none of this would work if director Baltasar Kormákur had screwed things up—like he did with Wahlberg and the awful Contraband. 2 Guns is far more straightforward than that convoluted mess, and the chases and shootouts crackle with the kind of intensity that we action-movie fans crave this time of year.

This is a testosterone-heavy movie, with Paula Patton playing the only female character who really registers. As Deb, Bobby’s DEA partner, Patton does just fine. Her character, like every other in the film, is a bit of a stereotype, but she handles it with grace. She also gets partially naked, because this is an R-rated film; it’s targeted at men; and most men (and many women) want to see her naked.

The producers face a dilemma if they go for a sequel: What will they name the thing? 2 Guns 2? Or 2 Guns II? Or how about 2 Guns: Even Gunnier? Why not Mark Wahlberg Is Super Funny When He Acts Like a 10-Year-Old, and He Does It Again in This Poorly Named Sequel? Who knows?

2 Guns is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Pain and Gain has all of that Michael Bay crap that makes him one of my least-favorite directors.

Actually, that’s an understatement. I think Michael Bay is a satanic cinematic force, with most of his films sustaining an artistic level similar to that of a sickened elephant farting in a circus tent that’s been set aflame by dangerous clowns.

However, he has made a few movies that I don’t hate. My favorite Bay film would be Bad Boys II, in which he seemed to be poking fun at himself. (That slo-mo tracking shot of a bullet passing through Martin Lawrence’s ass is the apex of Bay’s career.) I also liked his innocuous sci-fi offering, The Island, which actually featured edits more than a second long.

I reluctantly admit to also sort of liking Pain and Gain, mainly because Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson are a total crackup as two bodybuilders who take part in a kidnapping/extortion plot. This messed-up movie is actually based on a true story, and it’s remarkable how much of this insanity is accurate.

Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, a fitness instructor who is one of recent American history’s greatest stupid assholes. Lugo feels like his life is in a rut, so he hatches a plan to kidnap a wealthy gym member (Tony Shalhoub) and extort money from him. With two gym members (Anthony Mackie and Johnson) in tow, he goes through with the plan, and things quickly spiral out of control.

Bay uses the film to satirize the vapid 1990s, with his lecherous camera lingering on many bikini-clad asses and boobs. We get plenty of Bay slo-mo and, of course, the below-the-chin, looking-up, 360-degree tracking thing he loves so damned much. The edits are at breakneck speed, and get a little tedious. At 129 minutes, the movie is a bit too long, and yet somehow too fast at the same time.

Its saving grace is that much of it is quite funny in an over-the-top, outrageous kind of way. Just the sight of Wahlberg, Johnson and Mackie, all swollen with extra muscle pounds put on for the shoot, is funny. At one point, Bay gets Wahlberg to strip down to his Calvin Klein white boxer briefs, a nice homage to the infamous advertising campaign.

As he did with Bad Boys II, Bay celebrates disgusting excess entertainingly. No, we don’t get a vehicle chase with corpses spilling out of a truck and getting run over (Darn!), but we do get Shalhoub sloppily eating a taco while blindfolded. (This somehow manages to be funny.) We also get dogs with severed toes in their mouths, Rebel Wilson using nunchucks during a sex scene, and a dude getting his head crushed by weights.

Wahlberg is fun when he does comedy, always playing it straight during the most outrageous of situations. Johnson is amazing as a big religious hulk who just wants to be a lover, although he can’t help but beat the crap out of every other person he meets. This may be my favorite Johnson performance yet.

Is Pain and Gain sloppy? Yes. Is it way too hyper at times? Yes. Does Michael Bay commit many of the usual cinematic affronts that have made him hated by those of us who sometimes like to watch a movie without having our eyes and ears violated? Oh, hell yes.

Pain and Gain is OK, which actually makes it some sort of movie miracle when considering the dumbass who made it.

Up next for Bay would be Transformers 4, of course. I’m thinking that film will once again remind us that Bay is a scourge on the land who only gets it right on the rarest of occasions. 

Pain and Gain is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

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