"The Kings of Summer" seems more a dream-like fable than an actual coming-of-age story about three adolescent boys (and eventually one girl).
Set in the suburbs of Cleveland, 15-year-old Joe (Nick Robinson), walking home through the woods, accompanied by Biaggio (Moises Arias), discovers a glen that gives him pause, its beauty captivating. Feeling constantly at odds with his father, Frank ("My house, my rules"), chafing under his sharp tongue and no-compromise rigidity, and residing in that adolescent intersection of wanting (defiantly, angrily) his independence, Joe is inspired by this beckoning spot deep in the woods.
He tells his best friend, Patrick (Gabriel Basso), who finds his own parents grating and smothering, that they should build a house in the clearing. Joe spins his fantasy: "We'll boil our own water, kill our own food, build our own shelter, be our own men." In other words, run away from home and their parents' interminable rules, and experience a sense of freedom that is the stuff of youthful reverie.
And that's what they do. Leave. With Biaggio as a tag-along. They scrounge wood from building sites, corrugated tin roofing from a decaying warehouse, find a blue porta-potty door for the entrance, even craft some windows. The result is a colorful, charming house (with a sleeping loft) they can call their own. Their own Huck Finn raft, so to speak.
Of course, when push comes to shove, they find living off the land a bit arduous if not downright impossible, so Joe, having discovered a nearby Boston Market, keeps them afloat with excellent chicken and veggies.
The dream is fulfilled. Lift-off and separation have been completed. And, since this is a fantasy, it's all accomplished in short order, with a display of construction skills that would elude most adults.
Of course, there's a dream girl, Kelly (Erin Moriarty), who walks through the porta-potty door one day, causing Joe's heart to skip a beat. The problem is that Kelly has eyes for Patrick. And so Joe's fantasy begins to unravel, and life begins to intrude, creating unexpected tension between Joe and Patrick (BFFs since elementary school).
What is missing in this sweet, beautifully photographed fable is that the parents fail to freak out. No histrionics, no hysteria, no massive searches for the missing boys by the police and community volunteers. In fact, there's a scene where Frank (Nick Offerman) and Patrick's dad, Mr. Keenan, (Marc Evan Jackson) actually go fishing and, with lines in the water, discuss the boys' friendship with a certain nostalgic resignation. Or perhaps they view the missing boys as offering them a prolonged timeout. No harm, no foul.
"The Kings of Summer" is a sweet tale, off-center and decidedly whimsical from the opening setup. The Lost Boys of Peter Pan do learn, grudgingly, that there is, still, no place like home, and the front door isn't a remnant from a portable toilet. And parents, such as they are, can be a real bonus.
"2 Guns" is pure pulp cinema. A buddy B-movie with A-list actors, led by Denzel Washington as Bobby Beans, doing his porkpie hat, cool shades, chin hair stylin'-version of a guy who's got his mojo back. And not to forget Mark Wahlberg portraying Stig Stigman, constantly leaning on Bobby with his gnarly banter and younger brother mime. Both Beans and Stig deliver snappy, well-written dialogue that makes "2 Guns" a solid bro-film.
Is it entertaining, in a kind of convoluted, interesting way? Sure. But it's also aimed at a niche market, which, in this case, is sizable, due in great part to the popularity of both Washington and Wahlberg, who have a comfortable, on-screen chemistry.
Regarding the niche market. It's likely that many will view the body count in "2 Guns" as industrial strength, violence-porn. And there are lots of guns (way more than two). But no matter the tragic carnage of late, Hollywood still romances the gun, offering up an abundance of stylized shootouts, torture and mayhem.
The plot, briefly: Bobby and Stig plan a bank job in the small New Mexico town of Tres Cruces. They figure there's some $3 million in the vault, serious money belonging to a drug lord named Papi Greco (played superbly by Edward James Olmos).
As it turns out, there's $43 million in the bank (what?), and it belongs not to the cartel but to the CIA. Which is way worse.
Things get preposterously complicated. But then, not a minute of this film approximates reality. Which is the definition of entertainment.