Recently, I began watching Bill Russell: Legend on Netflix. I opted for this while looking for something to view while eating breakfast and lunch. As an aside, did you know that the most successful center in Boston Celtics’ history graduated from a Catholic University, the University of San Francisco? My curiosity about this led me to research his faith further, but it turns out he was not a Catholic. It was not the only thing that piqued my interest during that search for something to watch. My eye caught a film called 2 Guns (2013). Something vague tripped in the back of my brain about it, and dismissing it out of hand at the time. What I noticed is that the film was an entry in the Locarno Film Festival. I know nothing about this event, and I pay little attention to such functions. Still, I reasoned that if it had been in a festival, it cannot be all that bad, right?
2 Guns is really about two guys. They are United States Navy Sea, Air, and Lands (SEAL) Petty Officer First Class Michael “Stig” Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent Robert “Bobby” Trench (Denzel Washington). We meet them in a diner reputed to have the best donuts in three counties, though they are unaware of the elaborate titles in front of their names. For the moment, they are simply Bobby and Stig to each other. What they are doing in this restaurant is casing the establishment across the street, which is a bank. They are doing this because, as we see in a flashback from a week before, they are attempting to take down a Mexican drug cartel. The person in charge of it is Manny “Papi” Greco (Edward James Olmos). Bobby and Stig meet with him, and Bobby is supposed to exchange a bag full of counterfeit United States’ passports for cocaine. Instead, Papi tries to use money, but Bobby refuses, letting Papi keep both and saying that he owes him. Bobby and Stig then leave, but are stopped as they are trying to cross the border back into the United States. This is when we learn Bobby’s true identity, giving what has transpired during the course of his investigation to his boss, DEA Special Agent Jessup (Robert John Burke), and his ex-girlfriend and co-worker, DEA Special Agent Deb Rees (Paula Patton). They initially want to take him off the case, but Bobby’s next idea is to steal the money from the bank Papi’s keeps his money in as a way of linking him to the drug trade in the United States. Speaking of those funds, Stig meets with his own handler, United States SEAL Lieutenant Commander Harold Quince (James Marsden). Stig is going to steal the money for the government in order to help fund the SEALs own missions, essentially taking it from bad guys to be used by good guys. With everything in place, the heist goes as planned, but it turns out to be well over $40 million dollars instead of the roughly $2 or $3 million they thought would be in the vault. After traveling a safe distance into the desert, Bobby is about to reveal the fact that he works for the DEA when Stig shoots him and takes the money. He does this because these are his orders. To be more precise, he had been ordered to kill Bobby and thus eliminate any loose ends. However, because Stig likes Bobby, Stig only wounds Bobby. This is not to Harold’s liking, and he attempts to murder Stig upon obtaining the money, which also tells Stig that things are not on the level. As for Bobby, after finally making it out of the desert, eventually he tries to bring what he has found to Jessup. This is when he encounters Earl (Bill Paxton). By this point, we have seen him at the bank soon after it is robbed, claiming that the stolen cash belongs to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for whom he works. He is not above murdering anyone who gets in his way to get it back, and this includes Jessup. Unfortunately, this happens shortly before Bobby’s arrival, and it gets pinned on him. Now, to clear his name, he must find the millions and return them to Earl. As they have done a number of times already, Bobby and Stig have the same idea: to kidnap Papi and get information from the cartel boss. In the course of doing so, they decide to work together once more. To question Papi, they take him to Deb’s house, to her surprise. Bobby and Stig learn much, like the involvement of the CIA, but not before Harold and his men show up and start shooting. In their attempt to escape, they are captured by Papi’s crew and brought back to his compound in Mexico. Papi wants the same thing as Earl: the money. Stig is convinced that it is at the Naval Base out of which Harold operates, and together they storm the premises. While Bobby goes after Harold in his office, Stig gets to Rear Admiral Tuwey (Fred Ward) in order to explain what is going on and hopefully prove his innocence. The admiral wants nothing to do with the whole affair and summarily kicks him out. Bobby, too, has his own surprise when he gets to Harold. Not only does the SEAL not have the money, but he had been working with Deb to take it for themselves. Once Bobby and Stig finally reunite, Stig is ready to gather as many weapons as possible and storm Papi’s house. Bobby thinks they should give up, but gets an idea from seeing Deb’s murdered corpse, Papi’s handiwork, as to the location of the loot. Stig invites everyone down to Papi’s compound, and Bobby gets Earl to come, all with the promise of delivering the much sought after millions. The result is a climactic, and expected, shoot out, and our heroes limp off into the desert.
This is not actually the last scene in 2 Guns. The final bit is Bobby and Stig in another diner across the street from a bank. The people they are staking out are apparently CIA operatives, so I guess their job now is take out corrupt intelligence agents? Actually, the film is okay. It wanders around in the middle, and I had to truncate my discussion somewhat to fit it into my usual mold. Speaking of the usual, which this movie is full of, I am not sure how to approach this one from a Catholic perspective. There are drugs, nudity, and a lot of violence. My Catholic heart occasionally worries about members of law enforcement that go undercover that they will get into their roles “too deep” as the saying goes. They are often asked to do things that break the law in order to maintain their identities as being part of the criminal community, their true purpose being known only to the government. For example, Bobby and Stig burn down the diner with the best donuts in three counties. Setting aside the tragic loss of those tasty pastries, that cannot be easy on their consciences. The film does mitigate the impact somewhat by showing them to be pretty gentle bank robbers as these things go. The thing is that sin is sin, no matter the purpose behind it. Bobby and Stig commit these acts because they are trying to take down bad guys. While it is good to put an end to criminal activity, I still fear for the souls of those that have to do the kinds of things that Bobby and Stig do.
I wonder how 2 Guns did at the Locarno Film Festival, but not enough to actually look it up. Also, it should be noted that most every big-time movie gets some run at one of these events. My surprise at seeing that on its Netflix poster is a stereotype that festivals only screen art movies. As for this one, meh. It is not terrible. I could do without the objectionable material I mentioned. It is just okay.