Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur.
Written by: Blake Masters based on the graphic novels by Steven Grant.
Starring: Denzel Washington (Robert 'Bobby' Trench), Mark Wahlberg (Michael 'Stig' Stigman), Paula Patton (Deb), Bill Paxton (Earl), Fred Ward (Admiral Tuwey), James Marsden (Quince), Edward James Olmos (Papi Greco), Robert John Burke (Jessup), Greg Sproles (Chief Lucas), Patrick Fischler (Dr. Ken).
Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg are two very talented actors, who spend most of their time coasting on their considerable charm. Before last year’s Flight, Washington had spent basically a decade doing this – and Wahlberg, while occasionally throwing in a film like The Lovely Bones and The Fighter – basically does the same thing. You know what you’re getting when you walk into an action movie starring one of these two guys. And to both of their credit, they don’t simply phone in their performances – they perform them to the hilt, even if they aren’t really challenged by them. That can be said about their first onscreen team-up – 2 Guns. This is a likable, late summer action comedy with double and triple crosses, an ever twisting plot, and multiple trips across the border into Mexico.
When the film opens, we meet Bobby (Washington) and Stug (Wahlberg) as they walk into a dinner across the street from a bank. They want to rob the bank, and are there for two reasons – one, to scope out their target, and two, to make sure that this dinner “with the best donuts in three counties” won’t mess up their job. Needless to say, not everything is what appears to be. They pull off the robbery – only to discover they have both been lying to each other, and whoever gave them the information in the first place has also been lying. What follows is an over complicated plot featuring a Mexican drug dealer (Edward James Olmos), a crazed CIA agent (Bill Paxton), the DEA (represented by Paula Patton), and the army (James Marsden). The plot is busy, but never confusing, and the movie breezes by easily – coasting on the considerable charm of Washington and Wahlberg.
The film was directed by Baltasar Kormakur, who had made some pretty acclaimed films in his native Iceland, before coming to Hollywood. His North American “debut” was last year’s Contraband – also starring Wahlberg – and also having one of those plots where nothing is as it seems. Personally, I thought Contraband overstayed it’s welcome – tried too hard to pull the wool over the audiences eyes a few too many times. 2 Guns seems to be constantly threatening to do the same – but never quite does. The film is short, violent, funny, briskly paced and ends just as I was starting to get tired of all the plot twists. In short, it’s an effective genre piece – not much more – but a fun way to spend a couple of hours.
Washington and Wahlberg are surprisingly good together. It didn’t surprise me to find out after the movie was over that it was initially meant to be a vehicle for Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson (perhaps they backed out when Google came calling) . The film was most likely re-written to better suit its current stars – but this is still an buddy-comedy/action movie – and Washington and Wahlberg play well off each other. It also helps that the rest of the cast is game as well. Olmos is having fun playing the stereotypical Mexican drug kingpin – and I’m not sure what movie I’ve seen him in the last decade or so where he’s been better. James Marsden once again proves why he’s better suited for these type of odd, quirky supporting roles than as the leading man. Paula Patton is a standard issue “love interest”, but she does the job well. Best of all is Bill Paxton, who just may be insane.
Overall, 2 Guns doesn’t attempt to do anything too new. There’s nothing wrong with making a solid, fun, genre movie – and that’s precisely what the filmmakers have done here. I do hope that it isn’t too long before Washington and Wahlberg stretch their acting muscles again, but for now, it’s good enough to see them at their charming, movie star best.