Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg provide the star power and Paula Patton the curves to keep the attention of any red-blooded anarchy-loving summer action movie fan seeing ‘2 Guns.’ Don’t expect to gain any profound message from the summer shoot ‘em up movie. For that, read Murray Rothbard (who, by the way, in my educated guesstimation, would have loved this film).
As much as I like Washington and Wahlberg (Ms. Patton was a pleasant additional surprise) I wouldn’t have forked over theater admission for what looked to be a forgettable action movie with an ebony-and-ivory buddy theme veneer, except Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir works himself into a snit over the movie’s depiction of government. He writes:
“The default setting in thrillers these days is that institutions formerly portrayed as heroic, like the military or the intelligence agencies, are evil, corrupt and pathologically nuts…. In the wake of Abu Ghraib and waterboarding and Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden’s ever more alarming NSA revelations, even a mindless shoot-‘em-up like ‘2 Guns’ has to have a completely cynical attitude toward power if it wants to seem even vaguely hip.”
Salon’s man in theater calls the movie “anti-American” and says it sends “the message that our government has gone insane and we’re all totally screwed.”
Suddenly I’m interested in a Friday matinee, because, I’m pretty sure the government has gone insane. I’m not so convinced we’re all totally screwed. That’s an open question.
As the movie begins Stig (Wahlberg) and Bobbie (Washington) are casing a tiny savings & loan located across the street from a diner serving the best donuts in three counties. The two banter like two high school boys as they plan a robbery. Bobbie in his Pork-Pie hat (Breaking Bad’s Heisenberg has made them cool again), hip sunglasses, and gold teeth. Stig all earnest with a winking eye and biceps bulging from his too-small shirt. Outside is Stig’s Dodge muscle car probably borrowed from the set of Fast & Furious.
But our two leading men are not bank robbers. Unbeknownst to each other, one works undercover for the DEA and the other for the Navy of all things. They delivered passports to drug lord Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos) in Mexico expecting cocaine in exchange. Papi offered cash instead, which is refused by Bobbie. Papi keeps three million dollars in safe deposit boxes at a savings & loan. Bobbie and Stig figure they’ll take lots of Papi’s cash instead.
The doors to the boxes are blown off and the haul is $43 million instead of $3 million and the plot thickens considerably. Stig and Bobbie’s real identities are quickly blown once they have the money and are in the middle of the desert talking about what to do with it.
Suddenly the convincingly despicable CIA operative, Earl (Bill Paxton), replete with bad G-Man haircut, mustache, straw fedora and bolo tie appears with a posse looking for the loot, claiming it’s his (or ours). He repeats over and over the exact amount to the dollar that’s missing. He kills with no compunction and doesn’t just threaten to shoot people if they don’t tell him what he wants to know, but does it. He has a “ever play Russian Roulette?” speech and routine he gives more than once in his quest for information.
What has reviewers annoyed is, besides ‘2 Guns’ being just another violent action film starring two guys that seem to be in every other film that’s made these days, as Pete Vonder Haar writes for HoustonPress, “how depressing is it that the prospect of U.S. government sleazery is so easily palatable to modern movie audiences?”
Au Contraire! Hip Hip Hooray that the public is starting to wake up. Murray Rothbard wrote in The Ethics of Liberty:
“the crucial monopoly is the State’s control of the use of violence: of the police and armed services, and of the courts—the locus of ultimate decision-making power in disputes over crimes and contracts. Control of the police and the army is particularly important in enforcing and ensuring all of the State’s other powers, including the all-important power to extract its revenue by coercion.”
He goes on to explain that unlike the rest of us who have to earn a living, “Like the robber, the State demands money at the equivalent of gunpoint.” Rothbard is referring to taxation, which is no different than the money the CIA is piling up in ‘2 Guns’, taking a little off the top of deals for a certain substance being traded by certain consenting adults.
Like all public servants, Earl carries out his violence while acting as if his organization’s activities are God’s work, expressing righteous indignation that anyone would question his motives or authority. At one point, Earl tells Papi, no matter how big a businessman Papi thinks he is (Earl puts it in metaphorical terms involving a man’s anatomy) “you’re still a drug dealer and I’m still the United States government.”
Ultimately, our two undercover heroes live by their wits, bobbing and weaving with the twists, turns and double crosses. They seek their own brand of justice which results in a predictable conclusion which may leave professional movie reviewers unsatisfied. However, for those of us pining for anarchy, ‘2 Guns’ is just good, not-so-clean, anti-government fun.