2 Guns is a great guilty pleasure movie – though not on par with The Room or Troll 2 – because it serves its purpose without attempting to be grander than it is. This nadir of Hollywood filmmaking in which we are currently living gives us little hope of scrambling out from under the comic book obsession and sequelitis that has plagued the studios for nearly a decade. While it is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Steven Grant, 2 Guns is infinitely more watchable than half the trash that has been churned out in the past few years (I’m looking at you, The Lone Ranger).
In fact, 2 Guns shares a lot with some of the great buddy action/comedies of the 1990s, like White Men Can’t Jump and Die Hard: With a Vengeance. (I promise this has nothing to do with the black/white thing; I just think those are both great pairings.) Our two hapless protagonists are Bobby (Denzel Washington) and Stig (Mark Wahlberg), a couple of fast-talking would-be criminals who don’t know the other one is undercover law enforcement. That’s right. “Bobby” is DEA Agent Robert Trench and “Stig” is Naval Intelligence Officer Michael Stigman. This doesn’t become apparent to the two men until after they rob a bank together which each was planning to use to take down the other guy.
That’s not their only problem. They were supposed to steal about $3 million but end up with $43 million and a bunch of pissed off people coming after them. Hot on their heels are a corrupt CIA agent (Bill Paxton); a sadistic drug lord (Edward James Olmos); and a shady Naval captain (James Marsden). Bobby is also dealing with a partner/spurned ex-lover named Deb (Paula Patton) while Stig is being pursued by guys he thought were his best friends. The only option the men have is to work together despite their complete lack of trust in the other.
The sole purpose the movie is so enjoyable is the chemistry between Washington and Wahlberg. Individually, each is among the most charismatic and reliable actors working in Hollywood today, both having amassed an impressive body of work (though Washington’s talent is at a level much higher than Wahlberg’s). The surprise, though, comes from seeing how natural and comfortable each actor is with his partner. Washington and Wahlberg play off each other wonderfully, exchanging the rat-a-tat-tat dialogue with perfect delivery. While neither actor is attempting to win an Oscar here, Washington’s smooth-talking and level-headed Bobby is the perfect counterpart to Wahlberg’s coarse and impulsive Stig. The dialogue is perfectly crafted for each actor’s strengths and is akin to watching a performer who just gets how to deliver playwright David Mamet’s words.
Director Baltasar Kormákur (Contraband, which also starred Wahlberg) resists getting too flashy with the film’s camerawork, instead relying on his actors to keep the audience’s attention. Early on, we get a nice flashback-that-brings-us-to-the-present montage that is played very well and could have worked at the end of the film also had it occurred to Kormakur to frame his story that way. Regardless, the movie moves with the right pace and doesn’t linger on any one action sequence for too long (ahem, Man of Steel).
The film’s screenplay, adapted by Blake Masters, gets lazy at times, particularly in the case of Paxton’s CIA agent, Earl, who is a regurgitation of so many eccentric, cutesy-saying bad guys who have gone before him. There’s also no real surprise to the plot and the ending can be guessed within the first 20 minutes, but that doesn’t mean the ride to get us there isn’t fun.
High art? No. But 2 Guns is witty, well-acted and a welcome respite from most of the drivel oozing out of the Hollywood machine at present.