2 GUNS. Mark Wahlberg previously worked with director Baltasar Kormákur on Contraband (2012), which became a surprise hit. This time they've enlisted Denzel Washington and a solid supporting cast to make another mildly fun, inconsequential caper picture borrowed from the catalog of Michael Mann.
With Contraband I was struck by Kormákur's liberal use of Mann's visual style. In 2 Guns he departs from that influence a little but inserts enough tropes and details to suggest he'd just as soon be remaking Heat (1995).
2 Guns opens with Stig (Wahlberg) and Bobby (Washington) casing a sleepy little Texas savings and loan. Then we flash back a week to learn that they intend to rob the bank to get the attention of Sonora cartel head Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos), who stiffed them on a large-scale coke deal. They figure Papi's got a couple million rat-holed away there, but when they knock over the S and L and find more than 10 times that amount, their troubles start stacking up. Turns out they're both undercover agents, Stig for U.S. Navy Intelligence, Bobby for the DEA. And the money they stole didn't belong to Papi after all.
This is all revealed in the first act, leaving the bulk of the movie to serve as a loose framework of chase sequences and uninspired gun battles. The conclusion is predictable, the payoff minimal and any sense of menace or danger only materializes when Bill Paxton is onscreen — which is to say not nearly often enough.
Performances by charming, consummately watchable actors elevate this slightly, but it remains resolutely middle-of-the-road and forgettable, though intermittently entertaining. R. 109m.
THE SMURFS 2. There are 10 credited writers, 15 second unit and assistant directors and a cast loaded with surprisingly prominent talent. So if they divide the blame for this artistically pointless exercise in capitalism then no one has to feel especially guilty for what they've done to us.
Sociopath Gargamel (Hank Azaria) has become a world famous stage magician and taken up residence in the Paris Opera House. He's manufactured a couple of gray Smurflings called Naughties and is running perilously low on the "Smurf Essence" upon which his spells rely. Meanwhile, in Smurf Village, Smurfette's (Katy Perry) birthday is marred by her annual nightmares and identity crisis. See, Gargamel actually made Smurfette in his nasty laboratory, and then Papa Smurf (the great Jonathan Winters) cast his own spell to bring her over from the dark side.
The dark wizard creates a mystical portal to Smurf village and sends in one of the Naughties to kidnap Smurfette. He intends to exploit her insecurities to extract Papa's secret formula, which would allow him to create enough Smurf Essence to basically enslave humanity and commit Smurf genocide. In the midst of all these sinister machinations are thrown Patrick Winslow (Neal Patrick Harris) and his family. I guess they assisted in the first movie, too; it doesn't matter.
Everybody runs around Paris, people have daddy issues, and the ending can't come soon enough. When the energy and drama should be building, there's only narrative vacuum. The pratfalls and process shots might be enough to keep little kids entertained, but there isn't much here for anyone else. PG. 105m.
Rather than wasting time and money on Hollywood cash-grabs, why not support a great local business that actually embraces film art? This Thursday at Arcata Theater Lounge, La Dolce Video will be celebrating its fourth anniversary. Doors open at 6 p.m. for a blowout DVD sale, leading up to an 8 p.m. screening of three documentaries by late, legendary director Les Blank. From the press release:
"The 42 films Les Blank made while partying with America's quirkiest subcultures earned him a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute, amongst other honors. Rich in both anthropological value and an irresistible brand of down-home realness, the documentaries of Blank are marked by intimate glimpses into the lives of passionate people, their kitchens, their heritage, and most importantly, their parties."
We're lucky to have La Dolce Video, a last bastion of love for cinema, a curated collection of great movies, and the type of small business that is the lifeblood of small-town America. So get out and celebrate their existence.
— John J. Bennett
On Saturday the ATL has Low Movie (How to Quit Smoking), not actually a "how to" film but rather the complete music video/short film collection of the cult band Low by filmmaker Philip Harder. 65m. 8 p.m.
Sunday's family feature is Hoodwinked (2005), a would-be-clever CGI take on Little Red Riding Hood. PG. 80m.
And be your own Mystery Science Theater smartass at next Wednesday's Sci-Fi Pint and Pizza Night, headlined by Battle of the Worlds, a 1961 Italian import complete with flying saucers and a "super-electronic brain." Doors at 6 p.m.
ELYSIUM. From South African director Neill Blomkamp (District 9), this sci-fi flick imagines a future where the super-wealthy live on a space station while the rabble live on our ruined planet — until they send in Matt Damon, clad in a mechanical exoskeleton. Co-starring Jodie Foster. R. 97m.
PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS. A teenager, who happens to be the son of Greek god Poseidon, goes after something called "the Golden Fleece" in this sequel based on the young adult book series. PG. 110m.
WE'RE THE MILLERS. A pot dealer (Jason Sudeikis), a stripper (Jennifer Aniston) and two punk kids pose as an all-American family while they head to Mexico for a drug deal in this gag-filled comedy. R. 100m.
PLANES. Couple things you should know: 1. While this is a spin-off of Pixar's Cars, it's not made by Pixar. 2. It was originally set to go direct-to-video. But hey, it's your money. PG. 92m.
THE CONJURING. A stylish, old-fashioned creepfest complete with haunted house and exorcism from the director of the first Saw. R. 112m.
GROWN UPS 2. Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade embarrass themselves and insult your intelligence. PG13. 101m.
DESPICABLE ME 2. Reformed villain Gru (Steve Carell) and his cute little peanut minions get recruited by the Anti-Villain League in this charming animated comedy. PG. 98m.
THE HEAT. Sandra Bullock, as an overachieving FBI agent, and Melissa McCarthy, as a brash, foul-mouthed Boston cop, fight crime in this comedy from the director of Bridesmaids. R. 117m.
RED 2. A group of retired CIA operatives get framed as international terrorists and have to fight back. Starring Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins. PG13. 116m.
TURBO. The latest from Dreamworks Animation imagines a garden snail who longs to be fast. Voice talent from Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti and Michael Peña. PG.
THE WOLVERINE. Hugh Jackman busts out his pecs, lamb-chops and knuckle blades again as the gruff X-Man. This time he fights ninjas. PG13. 136m.
— Ryan Burns