2 GUNS: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Edward James Olmos, Bill Paxton, James Marsden, directed by Baltasar Kormakur (109 min.)
Sometimes a film has no higher hopes or aspirations than to just be entertaining. Not every film is the best, or the funniest, or the most complete, but those films that never set out to be anything other than what they are seem to function properly. 2 Guns is such a film, a whimsical, breezy action flick that is comfortable in its own skin. Nothing here is new, and it isn’t necessarily trying to be new; this is just a great example of a solid cast giving it their all and having some fun, and their fun shows on the screen. It also helps to mask the issues with the muddled plot, the clichés, and an ending that fizzles more than it pops.
Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg star opposite each other for the first time, which is obviously the strongest aspect of the picture. Washington is Bobby Trench (a name found only in the movies), a DEA Agent working undercover to try and overthrow a drug cartel south of the Texas border. His partner, Stigman (Wahlberg), is an undercover Naval Intelligence officer trying to do the same thing. The two men are unaware of their partners’ secret identity, and both are using the other to get to the big wig in Mexico, played by Edward James Olmos.
Of course plot is paramount in a film like 2 Guns, where character development takes a back seat to the twists and turns and action and one-liners. The partners soon discover each other’s identities once they find out they are being set up. Stigman’s boss, Quince (James Marsden), is trying to ruin his career and have him killed, while Trench is being pursued and subsequently framed by a rogue CIA agent, Earl, played by an over-the-top Bill Paxton. I had the biggest issue with Paxton’s character, a bad guy who happens to be a CIA agent? I never quite saw where he was coming from, and his corny accent is distracting.
There’s also the issue of $43 million Trench and “Stig” rob from a bank early on. Everyone has a claim to the cash, and everyone comes looking for it. Trench’s off-and-on girlfriend, a fellow DEA agent played by Paula Patton, also gets caught up in this cobweb of a plot. But the main point of all of these twists and turns is to throw our heroes from one scenario to another, and from one action set up to the next. The action is a lot of fun, including a clever chase scene around an apartment and a well-conceived car chase between Trench and Stig. Washington and Wahlberg have never shared the screen before, but something about their pairing feels completely natural. Wahlberg delivers some great laughs a few times, and Washington is silky smooth, and obviously having a good time.
I don’t think anyone involved with 2 Guns expected anything profound, so they never set out to try. Director Baltasar Kormakur has a firm grasp on his material here, and aims to make it fun. The plot is a little too complicated for its own good, and the final scene is rushed and it feels a bit forced. But the attraction is Wahlberg and Washington doing the physical action and delivering the lines. And a solid cast around them helps to keep things interesting. If you go in expecting something groundbreaking you may be disappointed but, really, why would you expect that here anyway?