Denzel Washington as Robert ‘Bobby’ Trench
Mark Wahlberg as Marcus ‘Stig’ Stigman
Paula Patton as Deb
Bill Paxton as Earl
Fred Ward as Admiral Tuwey
James Marsden as Quince
Edward James Olmos as Papi Greco
Robert John Burke as Jessup
Greg Sproles as Chief Lucas
Patrick Fischler as Dr. Ken
Edgar Arreola as Rudy (Papi’s Men)
Derek Solorsano as Ferret Nose Julio
Kyle Russell Clements as Teemo (Papi’s Men)
Christopher Matthew Cook as Thick (Papi’s Men)
Tim Bell as Lean (Papi’s Men)
Directed by Baltasar Kormákur
“Bobby Beans” and “Stig” Stigman (Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg) have been working undercover together to take down a Mexican drug cartel, culminating in them robbing a bank holding their money. Confused by the amount of money being kept at the bank, $43 million, the two guys then discover that they’re both hiding secrets from each other and there’s a lot more going on with everyone they thought they could trust.
Every once in a while, Hollywood delivers a late summer surprise, a movie that’s such a no-brainer, easy-to-sell high concept that you think it can’t offer anything beyond the usual shoot ’em ups and explosions. From the trailers and commercials you might expect “2 Guns,” loosely based on a graphic novel of the same name, to be an hour and 45 minutes of its stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg clowning around, shooting at people and blowing things up–and it has all of that–but at its core, it’s actually a fairly clever and complex crime thriller that keeps you guessing every step of the way. Maybe it’s no surprise since the original source material came from the mind of Steven Grant, an underrated comic book vet who knows how to write solid crime comics.
The movie opens at a diner where two guys are arguing about their breakfast, but soon it becomes obvious that they’re more interested in the bank across the street. Cut to a week earlier where the two of them are traveling down to Mexico to meet with the head of the drug cartel, Edward James Olmos’ Papi Greco, to negotiate a bust. We don’t know at the time that one of them is a DEA Agent but they plan on hitting the cartel where it hurts, the money it has stashed at the bank we saw earlier. It turns out that Stigman is a Naval Intelligence Officer, which might make you wonder why the Navy would want to rob millions from the Mexican cartel, but it’s something that’s explained and it adds to the many twists we won’t reveal.
It makes for a surprisingly good character piece for both Denzel and Wahlberg in which they get to play with roles not too far from what we’ve seen from them before but with nice personality trait twists. With gold teeth in place, Washington plays up his undercover role but easily switches to being a serious DEA agent when he’s with his supervisors. By comparison, Wahlberg goes for his bright-eyed nice guy over the straight-edged tough guy, but Stigman has the shooting skills to back up his motormouth. When on screen together, the two of them banter with quick sharply written patter, but the movie does separate them for a while as they deal with their own people trying to distance themselves from their now rogue agents. Still, they’re best when on screen together, whether they’re arguing or helping each other out in a firefight, which leads to many solid memorable sequences between them.
Even so, this isn’t your typical buddy comedy and there’s a lot going on in terms of what is really going on, all of which slowly unfolds over the second act as the two unlikely partners find out exactly who they’re dealing with and how deep they are in over their heads. It also gets fairly serious and dramatic at times as the stakes get higher, allowing Washington to break out of the more humorous role we see him playing as the movie opens.
The results come off like a somewhat tamer version of Joe Carnahan’s “Smokin’ Aces” with cool characters and action set pieces that even delves into Coen Brothers territory with a character straight out of “No Country for Old Men” in Bill Paxton’s Earl, an enforcer sent to get back the $43 million using unconventional tactics. The main duo generally have a great supporting cast around them, including Paula Patton as Bobby’s handler and sometimes squeeze, who gives a fearless performance as literally the only woman in the movie other than a couple of waitresses and bank tellers. Edward James Olmos also gets in on the fun chewing up scenery as the drug kingpin Papi and getting some great revenge on the guys who robbed him.
“2 Guns” is also a definitive step forward for Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur from his last Hollywood movie “Contraband,” which retained the grim and grey colors of his native work, showing off some flashy and impressive set pieces such as a climactic Mexican stand-off–literally in Mexico–that includes a massive bull stampede. This one also looks brighter and more slick with a fantastic score by Clinton Shorter that goes miles to keep things light and upbeat, giving it just the right flair of being a Western as well as a crime flick.
The Bottom Line:
Denzel, Wahlberg, Kormakur and their solid supporting cast deliver a surprisingly fun action comedy that makes “2 Guns” the type of movie you can enjoy in the moment but also one thats likely to play just as well on repeat viewings.