28 August 2013

Visit Mexico! 2 GUNS and WE'RE THE MILLERS

Apparently, the best reason to shoot a Hollywood movie in Mexico, aside from creating a dystopian vision of abject poverty there, is because you're making a film about drugs. The most tenuous of links connects up We're The Millers and 2 Guns, but as each of them can be reviewed in brief, and both films show American actors getting themselves into scrapes with Mexican drug lord characters, let's look over both at once.

The pairing of Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg is a huge boon to Baltasar Kormákur's 2 Guns, in which DEA agent Bobby and naval intelligence officer Stig separately have the goal of busting a drug cartel, but neither knows that the other is an undercover officer. And so, when they try to bust each other after an ill-advised bank robbery, they find themselves disavowed by their employers and on the run from both the CIA and a bunch of pissed-off cartel members.

In theory, this is an unabashed throwback to 80s buddy cop cinema, evoking films like Midnight Run and Lethal Weapon. There's some killer dialogue, delivered well by the experienced cast. Both leads are very likeable on their own, and a few different pairings with younger actors, Washington may well have found the perfect foil in Wahlberg. Denzel's not playing it grumpy, but Marky Mark's charisma is uniquely at odds with his in a way that's really entertaining to watch.

Unfortunately, it's not nearly as straightforward as an 80s buddy action movie. This is one of those films that feels convoluted, with several twist and turns, and yet utterly predictable at the same time. You may not see everything coming from the very beginning, but it doesn't take long to puzzle out after each consecutive twist or volte-face. It's also overloaded with villains, meaning that Bill Paxton's long-overdue return is overshadowed by an incomprehensible meringue whose ingredients also include James Marsden and Edward James Olmos. Neither of them can make a bigger impression than Paxton's corrupt CIA agent, who could easily have carried the antagonistic side of things all by himself.

2 Guns feels like a film that has benefited from a punch-up writer, meaning that someone came in to do some possibly uncredited work on the dialogue, either right before or during principal photography, in order to punch up the banter between characters. By that late stage, the film has been budgeted, and scheduled, and the story and structure isn't going to change much. Perhaps that would explain how a film with such strong, funny dialogue, is let down by such a weak narrative.

2 Guns is still showing in cinemas nationwide.

In We're The Millers, which is Rawson Marshall-Thurber's first big screen comedy since Dodgeball, David Clark is a career drug-dealer who makes a killing from dispensing weed to his customers. He's robbed while trying to do a good deed, leaving him in debt to his drug lord boss. As a result, he's forced to cross the border and pick up "a smidge of pot." In order to avoid suspicion, David assembles a fake family- a stripper, a runaway and a naive young neighbour- and loads them into an RV, where they wind up trying to get around two tonnes of marijuana into the States.

The brief appearance of Thomas Lennon sets the tone for this film right at the very beginning. It feels like Lennon has amassed 20 minutes of screentime altogether over the course of ten big comedy movies in the last decade, (plus The Dark Knight Rises) and he has a tendency to come on, do a quick cameo as a deadpan or milquetoast-y character, and then disappear. It's only at the end that you realise he was the funniest thing in the movie.

That's not necessarily true of We're The Millers, but it's also not as funny as it ought to be. On the whole, it wins through based on the chemistry between its lead actors alone. The hilarious Will Poulter graduates into mainstream comedies here, but he's surrounded by Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston and Emma Roberts too, and the four have a great, endlessly watchable dynamic. Backed up by supporting roles from Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn as a Stepford couple with a dark side, the film does prove to be sporadically funny.

The main issue is that We're The Millers sometimes travels a long way from what you would think is the central premise- a chase movie about four strangers pretending to be a family- for many of its setpieces. Unlike Dodgeball, which mined surreal and quotable depths from its unlikely subject, this one feels a little thinly spread- some may think it's churlish to complain too loudly about Aniston playing a stripper, but that isn't as funny as they sometimes seem to think it is. In the wake of Horrible Bosses, which saw her playing raunchy and funny, it doesn't cut the mustard, and it's that kind of thing that makes this a comedy of moments, but little memorability.

We're The Millers is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen We're The Millers or 2 Guns, why not share your comments below? Also, do you think Mexico gets a bad rap in Hollywood movies? Discuss!

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're so right. Still, if the Mexican Tourist Board are struggling to fight against impressions left by 2 Guns, We're the Millers, How I Spent My Summer Vacation and so on so on so on they can always turn to Nacho Libre...