Cinema Review: 2 Guns

2 Guns 10

Dir: Baltasar Kormakur • Wri: Peter Ladinigg, Umat Dag • PRO: Andrew Cosby, Randall Emmett, George Furla, Norton Herrick, Ross Richie, Adam Siegel DOP: Oliver Wood  • Ed: Michael Tronick • DES: Beth Mickle • Cast: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Edward James Olmos, James Marsden, Paula Patton

We meet smooth-as-silk Bobby (Washington) and motormouth Stig (Wahlberg) as they’re planning to rob a bank – a heist that goes even better than they could have imagined, because when all the dust settles they’ve got way more money than they bargained for. Way, way, more. Around $43 million dollars more, to be exact.

There may be trouble ahead, and it’s now that Bobby reveals himself as a deeply undercover DEA agent. He was looking to finally bring Greco (Olmos) to justice – it was his drug smuggling money they were stealing – but the tables are turned when Stig shoots him in the arm and leaves him behind in the desert, taking the cash to his boss Quince (Marsden).

Quince is a bigwig in Naval Intelligence, and it’s now that we find out Stig is also an undercover man doing his duty for Uncle Sam. But what’s the $43 million bucks going to be used for? That soon becomes a minor problem when everyone realizes that the money isn’t Greco’s – it belongs to someone else; someone serving a much more dangerous master.

Soon enough Bobby and Stig are on the run, a reluctant pair who trust each other about as far as they can throw each other – which isn’t far enough. Getting the cash back might get them their freedom, but then Greco gets hold of Bobby’s girl and fellow DEA agent Deb (Patton), and the bickering pair are tracking down – and trying to stay ahead – of a trio of gun toting, bull-breeding, helicopter-flying villains…

In a summer full of big blockbuster movies – nearly all of which have failed to hit the target – this guns ‘n quips action movie should find an audience. Starring the ever-reliable Washington and the likeable Wahlberg, this is by-the-numbers entertainment that’s high on bullets and explosions and contains the requisite number of twists and betrayals.

It’s a nice spin to have both of the leads working undercover and learning along the way that they’ve been lying to each other, though some of the subsequent revelations are obvious well in advance, so it’s kind of a pity Washington and Wahlberg didn’t get enough time to exercise their bitching, arguing and sniping.

More of this comic side would have made us buy them more cheaply as buddies, and the emotion is kept on a tight rein too, the pair seeming more like superheroes than people. Down the bullets rain as the bodies hit the dirt, but there’s no blood on show and the pair seem to barely get a scratch – probably in order to get the low certification – and at times it seems more like The A Team than a hard scrabble, dangerous actioner.

The roots of this story in Steven Grant’s graphic novel perhaps explain this pseudo-cartoonish feel, and though director Kormakur (who worked with Wahlberg on last year’s also blandish Contraband) does a decent enough job keeping up the pace, having three villains never really allows you to focus your fear for the lads, and in the end it’s all rather unforgettable stuff, if divertingly entertaining.

James Bartlett

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

108 mins
2 Guns is released on 16th August 2013

2 Guns  – Official Website

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Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Precious

DIR: Lee Daniels • WRI: Geofrey Fletcher • PRO: Lee Daniels, Gary Magness, Sarah Siegal-Magness • DOP: Andrew Dunn • ED: Joe Klotz • DES: Roshelle Berliner • CAST: Gabourey “Gabbie” Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz

When a film poster is adorned by the phrase ‘Oprah Winfrey presents’, you know you’re not in for a happy-go-lucky story of an idyllic life. Precious certainly doesn’t disappoint, this is a story of hardship and poverty in a hostile community and the difficulty of overcoming these circumstances.

Precious is based on the novel Push by Sapphire. It is set in 1987 Harlem and tells the story of Precious (Gabourey Sidibe), an illiterate, overweight, 16 year-old African-American girl that is pregnant with her second child fathered by her own father (!). What is perhaps most remarkable about this girl’s story is that it is wholly unremarkable within a community plagued by tragedy and hopelessness. The film is unyielding in its depiction of this tragic story, offering no easy solutions to the realities of an impoverished and unloving upbringing in a forgotten cityscape.

The story focuses on Precious’ relationship with her mother (Mo’Nique), who spends her days in their filthy, dark apartment, watching game shows and eating pigs’ feet whilst not verbally or physically abusing Precious. Needless to say, Precious’ home life does not match her namesake. Her only escape comes when offered a place in an alternative school, taught by the inspirational Ms. Rain (Paula Patton). Here Precious is given a chance to blossom, along with her troubled classmates. Ms. Rain is a charismatic, beautiful, confident and intelligent African-American lady and she apparently sings well to boot. She is an idyllic, romantic incarnation; drawing more attention to the otherwise downtrodden and static community which offers little hope of enrichment to its inhabitants.

Precious is an uncomfortable and, at times, brutal account of life in ’80’s Harlem. It is a society scarred by crime, substance abuse, poverty and an education system struggling to turn back the tide. Helping Precious better herself are Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz, who play a social worker and male nurse respectively. Carey is barely recognisable in her physically made-down role and is really very convincing and commendable for her part (her appearance is reminiscent of Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovich). Kravitz, on the other hand, merely plays himself.

Sibide is quite extraordinary for her first role and fully deserving of the praise she is receiving for it. However, for this critic’s money, it will be Mo’Nique collecting a golden statuette for her spellbinding performance as Precious’ repulsive mother.

Precious is an unrelenting depiction of the oft romanticised reality of life in an inescapable, impoverished society. It might be presented by Oprah, but she isn’t handing out free houses or cars in this story. While there are moments of laughter and joy, this is a film unafraid to show the downward spiral of a community forgotten by the outside world. A harrowing and captivating story of life in ’80’s Harlem and how precious your own life really is.

Peter White
(See biog here)

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Precious
is released on 29 Jan 2010

Precious – Official Website

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