2 Guns

August 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Bill Paxton
Directed by: Baltasar Kormakur (“Contraband”)
Written by: Blake Masters (debut)

When thinking about actor/director teams of recent memory, duos like Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, or the late Tony Scott and Denzel Washington come to mind. One that might not be at the forefront of people’s minds is the duo of Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur and Mark Wahlberg. Reteaming for the second time in as many years (Kormakur directed last year’s “Contraband,” a remake of an Icelandic film in which Kormakur actually starred in), “2 Guns” sets out to put the duo on the map as a new formidable team.

With their true identities unknown to each other, Undercover DEA Agent Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington) and undercover naval intelligence officer Marcus Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) try to infiltrate a drug cartel and take the other down with them. Both find themselves being chased down by Stigman’s crooked Naval bosses and an angry CIA agent (Bill Paxton) who they mistakenly stole the money from. Together they must team up to track down the money, which was taken from them, and stay alive.

Though not straying too far from characters seen in recent films like “Ted,” this is the kind of role and film Wahlberg does best. Throughout the film, Wahlberg uses his natural humor and is able to effortlessly put entire scenes on his back. In Washington’s case, it almost feels like he’s just along for the ride. It isn’t to say that his performance is lackluster, but it’s the kind that seems to be the norm for Washington these days. Besides the two leads, Paxton plays a deliciously evil Southern villain to a tee. He is a blast to watch. All his lines, including the hilarious ones, are delivered with total perfection. You can clearly tell Paxton is eating up the role.

What “2 Guns” really succeeds at is hammering down a consistent and loose tone. Jokes have a constant presence and are utilized in appropriate times. In fact, “2 Guns” packs some legitimately big laughs and one-liners with Wahlberg being the culprit in most cases. Even when some lines toe the line of absurdity, the film has a certain self-awareness that makes what’s happening or being said fun, rather than corny. While Kormakur is certainly capable of staging an action sequence, these scenes in particular are probably the weakest point of the film.

The plot itself becomes over-complicated in the third act with plenty of plot twists and double-crossing. Still, the film never loses its sense of a good time.  At its core, the driving force behind “2 Guns” is the performances of its actors, chiefly Wahlberg and Paxton. Even with all the gunfire, bloodshed, and explosions (and dumb title aside), at the end of the day, the successful pairing of Wahlberg and Washington is what makes it worthwhile.

Contraband

January 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Kate Beckinsale
Directed by: Baltasar Kormakur (“Inhale”)
Written by: Aaron Guzikowski (debut)

Ah, January – a month known to most critics as a dumping ground for heaps of cinematic trash. After spending the months of November and December pouring money, marketing, and efforts into their Oscar hopefuls, movie studios often reserve January for films they have less confidence in. Even still, occasionally January has had some bright spots, such as “Youth in Revolt” and “Cloverfield” in previous years. In “Contraband,” Mark Wahlberg follows his critically acclaimed film “The Fighter” with a by-the-numbers heist film that struggles to separate itself from other films of the genre.

After leaving the smuggling business to start a family, Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) must get back into the life of crime when his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones) angers Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) by screwing up a drug deal. Farraday leaves his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and kids in the hands of his best friend and right hand man Sebastian (Ben Foster) as he goes to Panama to bring back millions in counterfeit money. However, when the deal goes wrong, Farraday must think outside the box to keep his family safe.

If you’ve seen any movie that Wahlberg has ever done, you’ll know what to expect out of him. While their performances aren’t necessarily bad, both Ribisi and J.K. Simmons both sport almost cartoony accents and voices, with Simmons in particular channeling his inner Foghorn Leghorn. Ribisi has the more successful character of the two, being legitimately strange and unsettling at times, but is too often over the top. Foster continues his run as one of the most frustrating actors in Hollywood. He is immensely talented, versatile, and underrated as shown by his performances in “3:10 To Yuma” and “The Messenger,” but yet continues to make choices to be in second-rate films such as last year’s “The Mechanic,” among others. The one thing that can be said about Foster is that he is always good in his role, no matter what the movie may be. “Contraband” is no exception.

Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur’s direction, at times, shows a strong flair for action sequences, but it is also very inconsistent. Specifically, Kormakur makes use of handheld camera shots only in certain scenes of the movie, seemingly when wanting to pump up the dramatic effect. Unfortunately, not only is this distracting technique used in random times throughout the film, it is done with all the dexterity of someone who is trying to figure out how to use the zoom on their new video camera.

Perhaps the greatest downfall of “Contraband” is its predictability. It follows the typical “deal-gone-wrong” blueprint, contains easy to figure out plot twists, and forgoes every opportunity to do something different and unique. Still, it would be hard to argue that “Contraband” isn’t entertaining at times. There are decent shootouts and suspenseful scenes and Wahlberg carries a lot of charisma. There are also some good supporting performances to help it along. However, one could only wish they deviated a little from the norm.