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Shooting blanks

Big-name firepower can't save half-cocked shoot-'em-up

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What a silly title. It tells you nothing. Unlike the movie trailer. Which tells you far too much.

In the interests of spoiler-free reportage, let's assume you haven't seen the trailer.

Denzel Washington is Bobby, a gold-toothed gangster with a specialty in being able to deliver just about any commodity to the right people, for a price. His catchphrase: "I know a guy."

His partner Stig (Mark Wahlberg) is an amiable sidekick up for anything. He doesn't have a catchphrase as much as a trademark. He winks at beautiful women.

Yes, I know. Unique.

At least Stig's up-for-anything trait comes in handy when Bobby is falsely promised a delivery of cocaine by a Mexican drug lord known as Papi (Edward James Olmos, definitely working the other side of the Miami Vice fence). Miffed by the slight, Bobby and Stig decide to rob the bank where Papi stashes his ill-gotten cash in safe deposit boxes.

Uh-oh, there's trouble -- and here, the plot seems lifted from the great 1973 Don Siegel-directed crime thriller Charley Varrick. There is far too much money in the safe deposit boxes. Instead of the heist yielding a few million, the take is closer to $40 million. An extremely nasty man named Earl (Bill Paxton successfully channelling Charley Varrick's scary nemesis Joe Don Baker) appears on the scene to brutally question anyone connected to the missing cash. Earl's idea of enhanced interrogation involves Russian roulette.

As Cyndi Lauper sagely observed: Money changes everything.

Going through changes: Bobby's relationship with his sometime girlfriend Deb (Paula Patton), an apparently crooked DEA agent, as well as Stig's more formal relationship with a sinister navy commander named Quince (James Marsden). Even Papi transforms... from vicious to more vicious.

Director Baltasar Korm°kur, who made the dramatic career shift from Iceland to Hollywood with the indifferently received Wahlberg thriller Contraband, does manage to elicit a bit of chemistry between Washington and Wahlberg with some non-stop wisecrackery and a subtle suggestion their relationship has more chance for success than Bobby and Deb.

The Charley Varrick homages aren't the only thing that gives this movie a retro vibe. The story, adapted by Blake Masters from a graphic novel by Steven Grant, portrays government institutions as entities every bit as corrupt and violent as the Mexican drug cartels they are supposed to be fighting. In addition, Paula Patton comes across with some gratuitous nudity of the type that would have been expected of many a '70s actress.

In short, 2 Guns is amusing, shoot-'em-up drive-in fare for a world where drive-ins no longer exist.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2013 D1

History

Updated on Friday, August 2, 2013 at 8:07 AM CDT: Adds trailer.

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