‘2 Guns’ armed with cool action, first-rate stars
You know you’re in trouble when the leader of a Mexican drug cartel is only the third or fourth most evil figure chasing you down.
There are a lot more than two guns in “2 Guns,” a stylized caper movie with more plot turns than necessary and one of the most cynical views of American military and intelligence operations ever captured on film.
I don’t think the Navy, the Drug Enforcement Administration or the CIA are going to find much to like about this movie.
Nearly every scene begins or ends with someone pulling out a weapon and using it. There are two Russian roulette scenes with the same great speech about why most people don’t even “play” it the right way.
Lots of people die. Some deserve it, others don’t. And whether the gunplay is taking place on a chicken farm in Mexico, a naval base in Texas, in a suburban neighborhood in the light of day, in a garage or in somebody’s dining room, the outside world never seems to take notice. Based on a series of graphic novels, this is a violent, live-action cartoon that’s not interested in mirroring the real world.
Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg headline a buddy-cop movie in which they’re neither buddies nor cops. They’re a sizzling duo, funny as hell. Posing as criminals to each other, Washington’s Bobby and Walhberg’s Stig are in fact both working undercover and playing each other while they’re getting played by the nefarious forces around them. (Bobby’s backstory makes sense, at least in the world of undercover-lawman movies. Stig’s actual identity and the mission he’s been tasked with? Madness.)
After Bobby and Stig pull off a Robin Hood-style bank robbery in which far too much money is found in the safe — the kind of life-changing loot that ensures somebody very powerful and very dangerous WILL be coming after you — they’re under siege. One of them winds up shot in the desert while the other tries to figure out why his own superiors have set him up.
It takes half the movie for Bobby and Stig to figure out they should be working together against their common adversaries including the marvelous Edward James Olmos as the drug lord Papi Greco; James Marsden as a corrupt naval officer who’s always grinning like he’s auditioning to play the Joker in the next version of the Batman saga; and Bill Paxton, stealing every scene he’s in as the guy who wants his millions back.
About those millions. If you’re looking for a reasonable explanation as to why a certain party is keeping so much money in one tiny bank, and why certain other parties believe they have a legitimate claim to the money, give it up. Just know this money is going to lead to a lot of carnage, as even the good guys in “2 Guns” have no qualms about shooting first and asking questions later. Neither Bobby nor Stig seems to care that some of the people they’re shooting are soldiers and law enforcement agents who most likely have no idea they’re working for corrupt commanders.
Meanwhile, the drop-dead gorgeous Paula Patton is hardly believable as a tough DEA agent who loves Bobby — but she’s utterly believable as a topless seductress. (“Did you ever love me?” she asks Bobby, who responds, “I really meant to love you.” It’s a great noir line.)
Wahlberg is terrific as a sharpshooting chatterbox while Washington plays it ice-cold yet charming as only Washington can. They’re great together. By the third act, “2 Guns” has ridden off the rails in terms of anything resembling plausible plot turns, but even as we’re rolling our eyes, we’re thoroughly enjoying the slick pacing, the terrific score and the saturated-color cinematography.
With a sharp and funny if sometimes convoluted script by Blake Masters and slick, pulpy direction from Baltasar Kormakur, and of course that first-rate cast, “2 Guns” rises above standard action fare.
It’s a hot mess, but it’s cool fun.