2 Guns is every bit the buddy film you’d expect, bringing together two mismatched cops and forcing them to work together for a common goal. It won’t be nominated for Academy Awards but it will probably still do some tidy business at the box office. So what is it about this well-worn format that continues to bring the audiences in?
It’s certainly not the surprises in the storyline. Denzel Washington plays undercover D.E.A agent Bobby Trench, while Mark Wahlberg plays equally undercover Navy Intelligence Petty Officer Michael ‘Stig’ Stigman. The twist? Neither knows the other is the law. To entrap a drug lord they agree to take part in a small-town bank job, and find themselves in possession of a staggering load of cash. As it begins to dawn on our heroes that neither is who they say they are, they also start to realise that the money they have hold of is too hot to belong to one drug dealer. When the owners come calling and friends start dying, Bobby and Stig find themselves in – shock, horror! – a race against time to reclaim the cash and clear their names. But will this oddly matched pair be able to overcome their differences to learn to work together? Well if they don’t, we wouldn’t have a genre…
The cop buddy film is a franchise thanks to household names like Starskey & Hutch, Riggs & Murtagh, Tango & Cash, Turner & Hootch… The list is pretty endless because audiences never seem to tire of seeing characters from opposing backgrounds work out their differences on screen. There’s also the barely suppressed comedy of watching two grown men bicker like old women. So Bobby and Stig might be tied up awaiting a torturous death but of course there’s always time for an argument:
Stig: “What did I ever do to you? “
Bobby: “Apart from shoot me? “
You can also expect some gratuitous dropping of the F-bomb, along with any other incendiary devices available and unhelpful scenes where love interests walk through the shot with her breasts exposed. But the biggest repeat offender is the brother talk.
By choice or circumstances our heroes tend to enter the film as loners, misunderstood by their former partners or cut off from the herd. In a normal world common sense would dictate that these highly effective individuals would just look out for themselves. These films often provide scenes where one character is tempted to walk out and do just that. In fact the villain of 2 Guns – an excellent Bill Paxton character called Earl – actually summarizes this selfish worldview so we can disagree with it:
“America is the greatest country in the world because we accept that a man is greedy, selfish and covetous. In America we line people up and say get as much as you can.”
But the buddy film exists to prove this statement wrong. Stig won’t let Bobby pretend that loyalty is valueless:
Bobby: “You fought for your code and the Navy kicked you in the teeth. “
Stig: “I didn’t fight for the Navy. You fight for the guy next to you. My code saved your life.”
– and you can watch their relationship strengthen just by following the words they use for each other – my partner, my people, my family.
We continue to watch stories like 2 Guns, as predictable as they are, because we want to believe that this sort of love is possible. We want to watch films where someone is prepared to die for someone they love – even if that person is particularly unlovely. This is actually the attraction of the Gospel story: Jesus partners up with lost people like us, supplying our deficits and risking everything so we can walk away from certain death (He certainly had a lot of rookies partners amongst his twelve disciples). Possibly that’s also why people find it hard to believe. Would someone as good and capable as Jesus really die for the likes of us? Maybe Earl’s view of the world, however depressing, is easier to swallow after all.
Release Date: October 10