Pain & Gain

2 Guns

What do movies and sports have in common?  Match-ups.  It’s all about the match-ups baby.  Some cinematic pairings just get us excited, like the prospect of Mark Wahlberg (Pain & Gain) and Denzel Washington (Flight).  Washington is a living legend, and Wahlberg has cemented his place in modern cinema with critically acclaimed turns in films such as The Fighter and The Departed, for which he received Oscar nominations.  The action comedy is on the rise lately, and 2 Guns tantalized moviegoers with the rare opportunity to see Washington bring levity to a performance.  Unfortunately, even charismatic leading men can’t save a goofy script.

Washington and Wahlberg are Bobby Trench and Michael Stigman (Stig), respectively.  When we meet the pair, they are hatching a plot to rob a small bank to swindle a drug lord named Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos) out of his holdings.  They each have distinct reasons for wanting to pull this caper, but each is keeping the real reason a secret.  At first blush we think these two are criminals, after all who else would be robbing a bank?  In actuality they are both “undercover” in their own way, with Bobby being a DEA agent and Stig having firsthand experience with naval intelligence, despite the appearance of being a career criminal.

As each plays fast and loose with the law, the viewer is left wondering if our protagonists are corrupt or just deep undercover.  Bobby tries to convince fellow agent Deb (Paula Patton, Mission:Impossible – Ghost Protocol) that the robbery will serve as a way to nab Papi, while Stig is beholden to corrupt superior officers (James Marsden, Straw Dogs) within the Navy.  Their plan goes awry when they find out Papi’s bank vault yields a much larger heist than expected.  Not only do they need to ascertain the origin of the surplus money, they must ward off several factions who will stop at nothing to retrieve it.  Complicating matters is the fact that Bobby and Stig can’t really trust each other after having lied about their true identities.

I’ll start with the positive.  Washington and Wahlberg have tons of chemistry and good comedic timing.  I don’t have an issue with their performances at all; my issue is with the source material.  The storyline was simply foolish and muddled, and much of the characters behavior was far-fetched.  The screenplay marks the big screen debut for writer Blake Masters, who has previously worked in television.  Maybe his next effort will be more successful, although 2 Guns appears poised to have a solid opening weekend.  Nevertheless, it takes more than two talented leading men to make a successful movie, even if the pairing looks like a “slam dunk.”  Even a dynamic duo like Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro aren’t a sure-fire success if the script is wanting (see Righteous Kill).  If those two legends can team up for a dud, no tandem is above reproach.  The rest of the cast did little to bolster the movie, and it will not be remembered as a summer standout.  I’m not saying it was horrible, just very mediocre – in spite of its two stars.  Grade: C

This article first appeared at Poptimal and was reprinted with permission


Fast & Furious 6

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  In fact, milk it for all it’s worth.  That seems to be Universal Studios’ philosophy, considering that they have managed to spin the moderate cult success of the original The Fast and the Furious movie into a full-blown franchise.  Never forget that one of the sequels was literally called “Fast & Furious.”  They simply dropped the word ‘the.’  I couldn’t get past the absurdity of the title and didn’t see that one; but I’d seen all the other editions before this latest one.

Fast & Furious 6 picks up right where Fast 5 left off, as we find our merry misfits enjoying the spoils of their last heist in various exotic locales around the globe.  While Roman (Tyrese Gibson, Transformers: Dark of the Moon) and Tej (Ludacris, New Year’s Eve) live flashy lives, Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker, Takers) prefer more humble existences.  Dom is settled with his live-in girlfriend Elena, and Brian and Mia (Jordana Brewster, Fast Five) are expecting a baby.  Han and Giselle are doing their thing, and everyone is living the life.  A hundred million dollars is a pretty nice retirement fund; so there’s not much that would induce the gang to return to their former criminal ways.  Their hiatus comes to a screeching halt when Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Pain & Gain) approaches Dom about helping him apprehend a criminal who uses his considerable driving acumen in a new type of “vehicular warfare.”

The man is Owen Shaw (Luke Evans, The Raven), and his skills behind the wheel make him a worthy adversary for Dom and Brian.  Shaw is looking to acquire a processor, a necessary component in a device capable of disabling military communications.  He is in bed with the cartel and the CIA, and it will take a (former) crook to catch a crook.  This is where Dom, Brian, Roman, Tej, Han and Giselle come in.  Hobbs and Dom share a begrudging respect between each other, but there’s no way Dom would be helping the authorities without good reason.  We learned at the very end of Fast 5 that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, Resident Evil: Retribution) is still alive.  When Hobbs produces a recent photo of her and tells Dom that she’s working with Shaw, that’s all the incentive he needs.

I enjoyed the movie due in large part to the immensely entertaining action sequences.  The fight scenes were plentiful, and both the guys and girls get in on the action.  Eye candy littered the screen, with beautiful people, beautiful cars, and beautiful locations in abundance.  There was never a dull moment in the entire movie, and everyone was a badass.  Unfortunately though, more than one scene was completely implausible.  I think you’re supposed to ignore the fact that there’s no way Vin Diesel can catapult himself from a moving vehicle to catch Michelle Rodriguez in mid air after she too goes hurtling through the air.  But that’s ok, because it was a fun ride.  The ending clearly sets us up for an astounding seventh movie – but I’m not sure we need another one, folks.  On the one hand, they are entertaining, but on the other hand – haven’t we exhausted the possibilities yet?  It’s kinda like making Ocean’s Fourteen.  I’m sure we could, but is that really necessary?  Nevertheless, if you want to be entertained, you can’t go wrong with Fast & Furious 6; a wild ride for sure.  Grade: B+

This article first appeared at Poptimal and was reprinted with permission.