In 2007, Boom! Studios published Steven Grant's "2 Guns," a five-issue mini-series about a couple of undercover agents who get themselves into trouble with the Navy, the CIA, and the mob. It's a quick and entertaining read, full of twists and turns and riffs on established caper formulas.
And now, "2 Guns" has become the first Boom! comic to be turned into a major motion picture. I was curious to see what details from the comic were still present in the filmed adaptation, and what had changed with the Hollywoodization of the story.
The first change is noticeable right away: the two white dudes of the book have become an interracial duo; the DEA agent character of Bobby Beans has transformed from a character with long blonde hair and a soul patch into somebody who looks exactly like Denzel Washington. This is, in my opinion, a good move. For those of us raised on action movies, the teaming of Mr. Washington and Mark Wahlberg is a nice nod to the classic "Lethal Weapon"/"Die Hard With A Vengeance" black guy/white guy working together motif, and Mr. Washington brings a level of charm and charisma to a character that was, on paper, simply a generic action figure.
From there, the book and movie go on to diverge wildly. The bare bones of the plot are the same (undercover DEA agent and undercover Navy operative pull off a bank robbery and shoot lots of people), and there are a few sequences and bits of dialogue that are taken almost verbatim from the original comic script – but for the most part, these two works are variations on a theme as opposed to interpretations of a single story.
The comic, while containing plenty of punching and gunfire, and a few scattered instances of mild profanity, was clearly meant to appeal to a wide audience. The movie, on the other hand, works hard on achieving a hard "R" rating by incorporating everything imaginable into the mix, with no particular rhyme and reason: there's casual racism, over-the-top misogyny, animal abuse, female nudity, brutal violence, blood, swearing, and enough car wrecks and explosions to desensitize any viewer. Steven Grant's original series simply told a good story with minimum fuss and maximum attitude. The filmmakers don't seem to have that same confidence in the material, so they load up on excess in an attempt to make sure nobody misses that this is a hard-bitten action movie. Secondary characters and plot points have been transformed completely, seemingly at random. A straight-laced CIA agent has become a cowboy-hatted caricature. Bobby Beans' co-worker and love interest plays a vastly different role in the plot. And while the comic tells a quick-moving and concise story, the movie seems to change its mind constantly about which direction it's headed, and throw all kinds of things at the wall to see what sticks. Time for a fistfight! Time for a car chase! Time for another double-cross! Quick, some cold-blooded murder! Comedic rednecks! Stupid Mexicans! It's all here!
The film also strips a lot of the innate humor from the story, and plays things pretty straight, which is an odd decision. The comic proceeds in proper "Oceans 11" style, with a wry smile and a wink to the audience. The movie is far more heavy-handed, with the only amusement coming from sarcastic banter and widely telegraphed plot twists.
It's not that "2 Guns" the movie is bad, per se… It's just ordinary. The comic stood out by telling a story well, without pretense or fanfare. And despite fine performances from Washington and Wahlberg, and some spectacular cinematography, the film seems to lose sight of its objective and try to compensate with gritted teeth and affected attitude. The best heist films, like the best bank robbers, get in, do the job, and get out. And the filmmakers of "2 Guns" seem to have made the same mistake as their lead characters, and fumbled the plan along the way.
"2 Guns" (the movie) opens nationwide tomorrow, August 2nd. "2 Guns" (the comic) is now available in a new deluxe edition from Boom! Studios, and the first issue of sequel series "3 Guns" was released this week – find them at your local comic shop!