A flip, hip border action comedy that recalls some of the better buddy cop pictures from the 80s and 90s, Baltasar Kormákur’s 2 Guns doesn’t bring anything new to the table but a fast pace and loose presentation – punctuated by some explosive action sequences and combined with a short running time – make this an agreeably fun ride.
But the best thing 2 Guns has to offer – the only thing, maybe, that keeps it on its feet – is the dynamic between its two leads. Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg are at their likable best here, of all places – in this disposable actioner with a title that couldn’t be more generic – working up a real camaraderie that carries the film.
Their genuine-feeling rapport reminded me of Paul Newman and Lee Marvin in the underrated Pocket Money – a film, in fact, that 2 Guns shares a lot of similarities with.
Plotwise… where to begin? The first half hour of the film is a muddle of misdirection, packed with double-crossings on top of double-crossings leaving the viewer without much to hold on to. By the time you work things out, the film has slid into breezy but utterly conventional fun; you kinda long for the confusion… it was nice not knowing exactly where this movie was headed.
Wahlberg and Washington play a pair of… drug smugglers? Bank robbers? Or maybe something else. Washington is Bobby Trench and Wahlberg is ‘Stig’ Stigman, and as the film’s opening sequence promises, they do end up robbing a bank, for reasons so convoluted I’m not entirely sure either character fully understands them.
While they expect a $3 million haul, they come away with $43 million and a whole lotta questions. And a whole lotta heat. Somehow involved in this mess are a Mexican drug lord (Edward James Olmos), DEA agents played by Paula Patton and Robert John Burke, a naval intelligence officer (James Marsden) and his superior (Fred Ward, in a throwaway cameo), and a mysterious baddie played by Bill Paxton, who seems to be the worst of them all (has anyone noticed, by the way, how much Paxton and Timothy Olyphant sound alike?)
It’s good fun trying to piece together the puzzle of 2 Guns for as long as it lasts, but once all the pieces are in play the formula sets in. Let’s just say that the finale offers up a few more than the 2 titular guns, and that while the film hasn’t brought anything new to the genre, it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable ride just the same.
Director Kormákur previously made the heist movie Contraband, which was a more original film, story-wise, but also darker and more serious-minded; it went too far, probably, in its scenes with Kate Beckinsale and Giovanni Ribisi.
2 Guns plays things a good deal lighter and friendlier and scores: for all its other conventional faults, this is a film we want to like. And a lot of that credit should go to Washington and (especially) Wahlberg: whenever they’re on screen together, riffing off of each other and having a blast, we’re happy to be having a good time with them.