Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Cast: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, James Marsden, Fred Ward, Edward James Olmos
Run Time: 109 mins
Everybody loves a buddy cop movie. We get a kick out of seeing two different people flung into a sticky situation, typically involving blazing firearms, working out their differences to arrive at an uneasy partnership. Sometimes they’re serious, like with Training Day or Se7en. Oftentimes they’re more lighthearted, like with the Bad Boys, Rush Hour and Men in Black films. The late film critic Roger Ebert dubbed this type of film “wunza movies”, a play on the phrase “one’s a…” that might be present in the trailer voiceover. 2 Guns is the latest entry in this subgenre, based on a graphic novel by Steven Grant.
One’s an undercover DEA agent (Denzel Washington’s Bobby) and one’s an undercover Naval Intelligence Officer (Mark Wahlberg’s Stig). Both are posing as criminals, dealing with infamous drug lord Papi Greco (Olmos). The catch is neither is initially aware that the other is actually also one of the good guys. As is often the case in films of this variety, Bobby and Stig find themselves in way over their respective heads, with no choice but to trust each other as they get embroiled in an increasingly messy web of triple-crosses and dirty deals. Their foes and allies, including Bobby’s DEA colleague and sometime-lover Deb (Patton), Stig’s commanding Officer Quince (Marsden) and the sinister, shady operative Earl (Paxton) all have their part to play in what initially seems like a straightforward drug money heist but ends up as a whole lot more.
The first reaction one might have upon hearing the summary “a buddy cop movie starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg” is “wow, that sounds like it’ll work”. The pairing of its leads is indeed the best thing 2 Guns has going for it. Washington has plenty of experience playing a cop/agent and is still a sexy stone-cold fox at 58. Mark Wahlberg, whose last brush with the buddy cop subgenre was taking the mickey out of it in the raucous The Other Guys, is pretty funny here too. It seems his true calling is comedy rather than action; he’s probably happy to get the best of both worlds with this film.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot to recommend past the Double W double act. 2 Guns feels a lot like something Shane Black might have written and possibly directed, except that it might have been lighter on its feet had that been the case. The film suffers from noticeable pacing issues, never quite getting into a proper rhythm and feeling longer than its 109 minutes. The plot does get pretty hard to follow, which isn’t something you want in your fun, late-summer action flick. 2 Guns reunites Wahlberg with his Contraband director Baltasar Kormákur, the resulting film somewhat reminiscent of The Losers, which was set in similarly dusty locales.
Bobby and Stig go up against three main antagonists: James Marsden’s Commander Quince, Bill Paxton’s Earl and Edward James Olmos’ Papi Greco. All three clearly enjoy chewing their share of the scenery and it is fun to see the clean-cut Marsden play against type as someone who clearly isn’t the “nice guy” he’s often cast as. Of the three, Paxton manages to be the most genuinely menacing as the government-linked agent with a southern drawl and a penchant for dealing out torture. Edward James Olmos’ Papi Greco is pretty much the stereotypical Mexican drug lord – oh, he uses a jumpy, angry bull as an interrogation implement. That’s pretty mean. Paula Patton is decent as the requisite girl and provider of eye candy, though we certainly would’ve preferred seeing her in the thick of the action in a role more like the one she played in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.
It seems the film would have benefited from more of a focus. The crisscrossing plot threads don’t make the film complex, they make it unnecessarily confusing. This isn’t an action flick with an explosion going off every other minute, but the central set piece involving Bobby and Stig charging into the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station is executed pretty well, as is the finale set on a cattle ranch, which makes use of an ill-fated helicopter. Studios have generally shied away from the R-rated actioners that were all the rage in the 80s and 90s in favour of teen-friendly stuff, and in the end 2 Guns is as adequate a source as any if you need that fix.
SUMMARY: It’s not paced very well and suffers from a case of “plot pretzel”, but 2 Guns scores a casting coup in teaming up Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.
RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars
Originally written for F*** Magazine
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