“2 Guns” – because one double-crossing is just too mainstream…

I think it’s official now: the summer blockbuster battle fatigue has just kicked in and I can’t really see myself going out of my way to watch yet another 2.5 hours of destruction porn so abundant in the cinemas over the last two months or so. This is why I refused to watch “Wolverine” and “The Lone Ranger” (plus, a little bird told me that the latter would most likely suck royally), because I was approaching the tipping point, at which I would actively vomit in the cinema. I’ll still catch up with them whenever they’re released on Blu Ray, so no worries.

In order to save myself the embarrassment I have recently decided to undergo a detox of sorts that included picking mostly comedies to see on the big screen. Keeping in mind that there are still some big titles I’m looking forward to see this summer (i.e. “Elysium” next weekend), a course of treatment including some light cinema would freshen up my senses, keep my mind nice and open, and subdue the cynical prick that now lies dormant in the darkest reaches of my mind.

By total accident I ended up extending my latest trend of getting in touch with the buddy variety of action/comedy and added “2 Guns” to the list. I must admit that I ventured to see this particular film with surprisingly limited knowledge about it. Normally I do know certain things, which is a direct result of reading up about film-related news all the damn time, but “2 Guns” have blind-sided me really effectively. Prior to the screening I hadn’t even seen the trailer; I knew only the premise of the film (aka a one-sentence synopsis).

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“2 Guns” is basically a very classical take on the buddy cop comedy, in which we meet Bobby (Denzel Washington) and Stig (Mark Wahlberg) who do some shady business with a Mexican cartel led by ruthless Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). They sell forged passports and do everything to stay afloat and climb up the ladder in the drug underworld. However, they are both undercover agents (Bobby works for DEA and Stig for US Navy Intelligence) and, to add insult to injury, they have absolutely no clue about their respective identities. (By the way, the lack of communication between federal agencies is simply stunning)

In order to take down Papi, Bobby orchestrates a bank robbery, where they would steal Papi’s dirty money as evidence to help lock him down for good. Little do they know, however, that the money they stole belongs to somebody else, who would stop at nothing to get it back.

Gosh, it’s difficult to summarize this film. Not that it’s overly complex and multi-layered and such, because it is after all an action comedy, but I found it amazingly difficult to write it up without giving the most important plot points away. That’s just how it is, “2 Guns” is a comedy about two guys, who don’t know who their partner is, and they end up being double-crossed while being double-crossed by somebody else. At some point, this film started to look more like an episode of “Scooby-Doo” with all the unmasking, betrayals and what-not.

Even though the plot looks rather convoluted, “2 Guns” plays out quite simple. It’s a very formulaic buddy comedy that takes a lot from “Lethal Weapon” and “Tango and Cash”. But, let’s be clear here for a second: even though the film is filled with witty humor and snappy dialogue, it’s still a pretty violent and action-packed show filled with blood, guns, some mild torture and even a topless chick (Paula Patton) whose breasts serve no actual purpose on the screen other than to tick the genre box. Surprisingly though and thankfully at that, in spite of pairing up Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, “2 Guns” doesn’t rely on racially-influenced dynamics and humor to propel the film. I find it very reassuring that we can now see a decent example of seeing past the cliché black/white buddy cop comedy, because there is only a finite number of puns and one-liners that would fit into that equation, and we’ve seen them all, I’m afraid.

 

Ok, so there are guns (2 of them, snap!), violence, humor, explosions, drug cartels, shootouts, car chases, boobs, money, rogue agents, rogue soldiers, rogue-pretty-much-anybody, fat useless policemen and sexy waitresses. On paper all the boxes are ticked and in theory “2 Guns” should be fantastic. Problem is that it’s all been done. Even Simpsons did it… Therefore, this little film will never be amazing and awesome – it will only be OK. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast, but it’s not one of the films that will linger in your memory for longer than ten minutes. It’s nice and refreshing, but it has nothing to offer apart from the solid craftsmanship.

“2 Guns” goes down very nicely, even with very predictable twists and turns. It’s perfect when all you need is a break from the heavy-handed blockbusters we’ve been seeing all summer, but it adds nothing to the genre. The actors are OK, the action is OK, the humor is OK – it’s all just… OK. If anything, “2 Guns” takes a few steps towards self-parody at times with the absurd amount of double-crossings and rogue agents that run rampant on the screen. Seriously, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think that US Government agencies have zero control over their employees and assets – that’s how ridiculous it gets by the end. Maybe, for sake of clarity, this film should come bundled with a sign that says “Avoid taking anything in this film seriously… Seriously…” It’s just good fun, but nothing more…

The Sunday Rant

Right, so I thought I could use some venting. The years of indentured servitude one has to go through in order to become a scientist, all the while biting his tongue and pickling his emotions, have taught me that keeping things in can be at least referred to as unhealthy. So, as one might probably realize by now, I tend to rant. A lot. I like to think it’s therapeutic, but other than that I don’t really know.

Last week ended up being really interesting. I spent God knows how long waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with the greatest (so far) stink-bomb of the year – “Iron Man 3”, because I really wanted to see how it is received globally. It would seem that here in Europe we’re mostly good guys and instances of brutally spoiling this film for our fellow movie-goers across the pond were rather scarce; if you don’t count Youtube – that place is just full of butt-holes, but who am I to talk… I sincerely hoped “Iron Man 3” would bomb, but quite expectedly people loved it. The critics write sonnets about how fantastic it was and the box office revenue reflects the popular (sigh!) vote; and that scares me.

I mean, I can understand that people don’t want to step on anyone’s toes with this one, because the great Shane Black wrote the script for this piece of crap, but let’s face it: for the good of everyone around there should be no sanctity when it comes to art or entertainment. If Spielberg makes a s**t film – people should know, but it turns out that RDJ only needs flutter his eyelashes for everybody to fall hopelessly in love with Iron Man… Shame… And to think someone who brought us “Lethal Weapon” or “The Last Boy Scout” could contribute to this…

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who saw that (here’s a video rant from Peter Rallis), but still countless masses made Marvel and Disney think they’ve done it right, because the only thing that matters in here is money. They’ll make a lot of it with this one and I’ll bet you money right here and now that the PG-13 spirit of “Iron Man 3” will make its way to the next “Thor”, “Captain America” or the next “Avengers”. Who knows, maybe they all will feature little boys, Christmas themes and meaningless non-violent substitute for action. It’s not OK. If you want to see a good comic book movie – go and watch “The Crow” (I re-watched it last Sunday to wash the Iron Man off my brain). Actually, do it before they remake it in PG-13, because they are remaking it. Since R-rated movies are frowned upon, the teenagers moan and groan and people lose money, I’m afraid the remake might not be exactly dark.

Now, I could even try and come to terms with the superhero genre replacing the good old-fashioned action cinema, but if this is the way we’re headed – count me out. Now I’m literally dreading the release of “Thor 2”, “Star Trek Into Darkness” and “Man of Steel”, because what if they suck as badly as “Iron Man 3” did? And I need my action films to feel normal. I was raised with them and can’t imagine the world without them…

And in that spirit, and following the raging disappointment Iron Man had caused, I caught up with two films that had slipped through my fingers: “Jack Reacher” and “End of Watch”. Now, I really appreciate the effort, because lately it is rather difficult to see something relatively original leave Hollywood. Well, maybe not exactly, because “Jack Reacher” was based on a novel if I remember correctly, but then again adapting literature is nowhere near as bad as plastering numbers on films or re-heating old noodles are. I desperately tried to like it and as a result I ended up even more frustrated with it than I originally was. Somebody needs to tell Tom Cruise it is time to go. I appreciate “Rain Man, “Jerry Maguire” or “Vanilla Sky”, but enough is enough. Tom just can’t create a believable character for crime/action film any more. It’s all Ethan Hunt over and over again and the attempted noir atmosphere just doesn’t sit very well with him. Between this, the last “Mission Impossible” and “Oblivion”, I think I’ve had enough of Tom Cruise in action films.

“End of Watch” on the other hand… Now that was something else. It was brutal, violent, gripping, maybe a bit heavy-handed with all the flag-waving and police self-apotheosis, but at least it stayed true to the values of action/crime cinema. Maybe the found-footage thing was a bit sketchy, but hey… Everybody vlogs now, so why not the Mexican gangs… So, just because I can swallow a fair bit of pathos before I get sick, I wasn’t bothered by the ‘serve-and-protect’ nonsense. The dialogues were nice, Jake Gyllenhaal was awesome, and most of all when bullets flew, people got hurt. So that’s a plus, because I hate when movies show battles or gunfights and everyone’s OK (which is exactly what I saw in “Iron Man 3”, and no – I do not intend to stop bashing it, it deserves it). Plus, the entirety of the film takes place in a car or in its direct surroundings, so clearly no-one needs to blow up oil rigs or destroy CG-made cities to keep the adrenaline up.

In fact, even “Crimson Tide” (that I happened to re-watch this week as well) proves that you can put your characters in a can and use no effects whatsoever in a film, for it to be gripping. Flag-wavy, but still gripping… But then, Denzel Washington sort of drives the movie on its own, which is yet another piece of evidence that we need character-driven action films and not this plastic colorful flashy bulls**t.

Speaking of plastic colorful flashy crap, Lovefilm sent me “Skyline” this week and I don’t really want to talk about it. I had it on my rental list for ages, because why the hell not and now I got it. What a pile of crap that was… It should be shown to people in film schools as a reminder that special effects are not enough and special effects guys rarely make good directors. Notable exceptions of the like of James Cameron can only prove the theory as a whole, because no theory is complete without exceptions. I shouldn’t even speak about “Skyline” any longer, because it might be mistaken for a review, but I’ll say only this: even though it tried to look like good modern sci-fi with all the bling what-not, but the appalling story and wooden acting can make any good film look mediocre… And a mediocre film look terrible… And a terrible film unwatchable… Therefore, just to make sure I still like Sci-fi I quickly re-watched “Sunshine” and “War of the Worlds” (with the latter additionally easing my Tom Cruise pain, but Spielberg can actually direct actors so that they look convincing, so I don’t know) and everyone was happy again.

Still, when was the last time I watched some genuinely good Sci-fi? As much as I’d like to say “Prometheus”, I couldn’t live with myself for doing that. All the nonsense that went on in that movie has most probably stretched the whole thing into a trilogy, which Ridley Scott will never finish (because he won’t have a clue, how to make it look kosher again) and hence “Prometheus” should be promptly disqualified. But anyway… Good Sci-fi… Maybe “Battle LA” could qualify even with the tonne of pathos it carried, but I think the last time I was literally blown away by a Sci-Fi film was the time I saw “District 9” – four years ago!

But there is a silver lining to that, because Neill Blomkamp’s “Elysium” hits theaters this summer, so at least I’ll have something to look forward to. And I can try to feel better about seeing “Star Trek” next weekend – hopefully it won’t suck.

Meanwhile, the Sunday rant slowly crept onto Monday territory and I think I can stop now. Maybe next week I’ll do something similar and I’ll see where it gets me.

Rant over.

Booze, drugs and airplanes – “Flight”

I know it might seem like old news for most people , but here in the UK some films take forever to premiere. Therefore Robert Zemeckis’ newest baby had to wait until February for us to see it. In fact, fellow movie watchers across the pond can now see “Flight” on DVD and Blu Ray whereas in here it would look, as if this film experienced some sort of turbulence on its way to The Isles. I should be glad however that it didn’t take as long as it is to bring “Cloud Atlas” over. I know it’s a pretty secluded corner of the earth out here with no connection to the outside world, tropical storms, cannibals and other nonsense, but there has to be a way to prevent these travesties from happening. So, if by some weird coincidence, anyone responsible for films like “Flight” or “Cloud Atlas” taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r to reach the Shakespeareland is actually reading this – please, be a lamb and make sure it does. Not. Happen. Again. Ever.

flight

Even though what I’m about to do might come across as pointless, for the benefit of all of us who have just been given a chance to acquaint ourselves with what I believe is the best acting performance of the last year (yes, I know… “Lincoln” and such…) I shall give my little review on “Flight”.

Story-wise, “Flight” is a well-scripted redemption story of a commercial airliner pilot William “Whip” Whitaker (Denzel Washington) whose life didn’t turn out the way he wished. He is addicted to alcohol and cocaine, but he refuses to admit it, his wife had left him and his teenage son not only doesn’t know him, but does not want to have anything to do with him at all. However, the one thing Whip knows backwards and forwards is how to fly and strangely enough that unique trait of his gives him an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a look at his life and make the right decision for once.

 

The opportunity came in a form of a technical fault during a short-distance flight where the plane all of a sudden went into a full blown nosedive heading for an inevitable disaster. Whip however kept his cool and through titanic effort and masterclass skill he managed to turn the rendezvous with death into a rough emergency landing that saved almost everyone on board. Being pronounced a hero and forced into the media spotlight turned out to be the much needed catalyst for him to face his vices and put up a fight against his own inner demons.

As I stated before, “Flight” doesn’t break new ground in terms of storytelling. We’ve seen this a thousand times and we’ll definitely see it a thousand times more. What separates this film from the rest is how Denzel Washington took the character and made it his own. I mean, he is always a delight to watch regardless of the genre and he doesn’t seem to be aging at all, but it is his effort what makes “Flight” such a good movie after all. His perfect execution and complex depiction of this deeply disturbed individual is just phenomenal. He is the star of the film, but he somehow managed not to overshadow the rest of the cast (which is sadly the case for “Lincoln”). I think this very professional way Washington drove his character is responsible for the fluidity of the story. I wasn’t just waiting for him to enter the frame, but simply wanted to follow the story. I managed to make a connection with Whip, which to me is indicative of a job well done.

All in all, I was glad I saw “Flight”. Even though I was aware from the get-go of the sinusoidal approach of rise-fall-rise-again this film was going to take, the outstanding execution and subtle touch combined with a parade of awesomeness in the acting department kept me bolted to my seat. I enjoyed it a lot and I think I will be secretly rooting for Denzel Washington to get the gong at this year’s Oscars. He sure deserves it, maybe not more than Daniel Day-Lewis, but at least just as much.