It should come as no surprise that when you start with two guns you might wind up with a complicated and multihanded Mexican standoff by movie’s end. Following the hail of bullets along the way to the fiery conclusion of 2 Guns proves to be an entertainingly escapist journey.
Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg find a companionable groove as the film’s titular guns (no small feat for Wahlberg, since he’s playing against one of the titans of American acting). As the film opens, Washington’s Bobby Trench and Wahlberg’s “Stig” Stigman appear to be partners in crime setting up a bank robbery in the small, fictional town of Tres Cruces, N.M. What is unknown to the other is that each one is an agent of the law in deep undercover: Bobby is a DEA agent and Stig works for the military as an NCIS officer. Each man’s objective is to capture Papi Greco (Olmos), the bullish head of a Mexican drug cartel. The two of them spar for a while, which makes for some physically rollicking scraps. After the bank robbery and the mutual discovery of their true identities, the two men become real partners because the number of their opponents swells dramatically. Earl (Paxton), a particularly smarmy and heartless antagonist, enters the fray, laying sole claim to the stolen millions. By the time Earl’s true identity is revealed, the number and depth of U.S. government entities found on this money trail is staggering. In classic form, partners Bobby and Stig become solid buddies by the end of the caper.
Based on the Boom! graphic novels by Steven Grant, 2 Guns is the most human of comic-book adaptations to come around this summer. The screenplay is by Brotherhood creator Blake Masters. The repartee between Bobby and Stig is swift and clever, and the plot convolutions are twisty enough to keep us engaged without becoming unnecessarily complicated. It only lapses in the story thread involving Deb (Patton), Bobby’s DEA girlfriend, who makes no secret of her other boyfriend. Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur (following last year’s Contraband, which also starred Wahlberg) is turning into a reliably adept director of Hollywood action movies. Although nothing has yet reached the level of mordant humor displayed in his nonaction Icelandic debut, 101 Reykjavík, 2 Guns comes closest. Maybe it’s just an expression of relief after a summer of superheroes and fantasy scenarios, but 2 Guns is a refreshing blast.
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