More Mr Nice Guy

Den­zel Wash­ing­ton is see­ing the hu­mour in his role in 2 Guns, writes Kee­ley Bol­ger

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE -

DEN­ZEL Wash­ing­ton is cheer­fully hum­ming a tune. It’s not be­hav­iour you’d ex­pect from the man known for his stark por­tray­als of con­tro­ver­sial civil rights ac­tivist Mal­colm X or tough- talk­ing bad boy Alonzo in Train­ing Day, but the dou­ble Os­car- win­ner is any­thing but pre­dictable.

Take his new ac­tion film 2 Guns, for ex­am­ple. As well as brawls, car chases and a pretty hairy run- in with some cat­tle, Wash­ing­ton does some­thing much more sur­pris­ing. He smiles.

“I was look­ing for a de­par­ture from heav­ier roles and when I read this script it re­ally made me laugh,” says Wash­ing­ton, who played apartheid ac­tivist Steve Biko in Bri­tish drama Cry Free­dom and wronged boxer Ru­bin Carter in The Hur­ri­cane.

And with rag­ing bulls, whip- smart wit and a rather dap­per cos­tume change, 2 Guns cer­tainly marks a de­par­ture from Wash­ing­ton’s pre­vi­ous role in Flight, as a pi­lot who snorts co­caine and downs a vodka be­fore tak­ing to the skies.

In the new film, he and co- star Mark Wahlberg, known for his per­for­mances in Boo­gie Nights, The Fighter and Ted, play a pair of un­der­cover agents who work for the US Drug En­force­ment Agency and the US Navy re­spec­tively. They have been brought to­gether to in­fil­trate a Mex­i­can drug car­tel and re­cover mil­lions of dol­lars.

Nei­ther Bobby Trent ( Wash­ing­ton) nor Stig ( Wahlberg) knows the other is also work­ing as an un­der­cover gov­ern­ment agent, hav­ing given each other fake back sto­ries.

“Bobby and Stig are ly­ing to each other for half the film,” says Wash­ing­ton, who has sev­eral scenes with Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble ac­tress Paula Pat­ton, who plays a con­flicted gov­ern­ment agent. “I’m not what I told him I am, and he’s not what he told me he is.”

When the plan goes to pot, their iden­ti­ties are uncovered and they’re dis­owned by their bosses, Bobby and Stig have to work to­gether to bring the car­tel down and clear their own names which have been sul­lied by their swin­dling su­pe­ri­ors.

In be­tween all this, there are some rather fe­ro­cious fights. But Wash­ing­ton, no stranger to heavy- go­ing ac­tion flicks, with mem­o­rable parts in In­side Man, Man On Fire and Crim­son Tide, is far from be­com­ing big- headed about his prow­ess with a pis­tol.

“Mark is bet­ter with the gun than me. When he shot the chick­ens in the film, he was the busi­ness,” the ac­tor says, re­fer­ring to a scene in which Wahlberg’s char­ac­ter shoots three birds in the head.

“He had to snatch the gun from another guy, I didn’t re­ally have any gun play. And I no­ticed Mark had a lit­tle 9mm gun and was al­ways smooth with it, whereas I had a big 44mm gun and was like, ‘ Oh, I’ve got to lift that gun up’.”

At a very lean 58, Wash­ing­ton, who came to ac­claim with the 1989 Civil War film Glory and later won the Os­car for best sup­port­ing ac­tor, looks like he can han­dle a 44mm gun. But a live, rag­ing bull? Well, that’s a dif­fer­ent mat­ter.

“My back is bet­ter now but I had fun do­ing that scene,” he says of a scene in which he and Wahlberg were hung up­side down from the ceil­ing, beaten on the stom­ach with a base­ball bat and then charged at by a seething bull.

“That bull tried to steal the scene,” he says, laugh­ing.

“He ac­tu­ally kicked his feet and started snort­ing at us, but thank good­ness the fence was be­tween us. That was one big, mean an­i­mal.”

While sus­pended from the ceil­ing, the duo have to use all their strength to lift their heads to their chests to avoid the bull pound­ing into their skulls. Such mus­cle power could call for a bit of boast­ing on set, but Wash­ing­ton is too long in the tooth for any shows of bravado.

“Me and Mark were tired af­ter each take of the ac­tion scenes. In fight scenes I’d go, ‘ You win, it’s all you!’ There was no ego. It would have been easy in those fight scenes for some­one to grip the other per­son a lit­tle harder but it wasn’t about that,” he says.

“A younger ac­tor would have done that and said, ‘ Oh, what did I do? Oh sorry’, and you’d say, ‘ Don’t worry about it, we’ve got one more take’. Then in that take, you’d grip harder and say, ‘ Oh sorry. My bad. Cut!”’

For all his jokes, it’s un­likely Wash­ing­ton would do such a thing to a plucky up­start. Set­tling into the in­ter­view, he talks about the weather be­fore croon­ing away to him­self in his low tune­ful way. I feel lucky to hear this, I say. “So you should be,” he smiles.

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