2 Guns (based on the Boom! Studios comic book series by writer Steven Grant) centers on a pair of bank robbers who, unknown to each other, are actually working as undercover government agents. Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington) works for the DEA, charged with infiltrating a Mexican drug cartel led by ruthless kingpin Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). Marcus Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) is a former NCIS operative tasked with stealing from narcotic suppliers, so that the money can be used to fund Navy SEAL black-ops missions across the border.
However, a bungled bank heist reveals Trench and Stigman’s mutual deception, leaving them disavowed by their superiors and hunted by a ruthless mercenary, Earl (Bill Paxton). The pair must overcome their distrust and work together to clear their names, as well as hunt down the person responsible for setting them up.
2 Guns is a loose adaptation of Grant’s comic book series, where the A-lister team up of Washington and Wahlberg will be the real draw (at least for most moviegoers). The crime story is a serviceable backdrop for action and comedy set pieces, and there are plenty of clever ideas at play in the film, but the plot only serves to give weight to entertaining banter between the film’s leading men. Anyone hoping for a fresh take on the crime-thriller genre or explosive action spectacle might be underwhelmed by what 2 Guns is offering – since much of the film is designed to highlight that volatile pairing of Washington and Wahlberg. Still, the two stars, aided by smart choices from director Baltasar Kormákur (Contraband), deliver plenty of engaging action and comedy beats that make 2 Guns a worthwhile entry in the R-Rated buddy-copy genre.
The story is a pretty straightforward tale of crime and government corruption – one that delivers a few surprises, but also suffers from bland “twists” that any regular filmgoer will see coming. Fortunately, in spite of some familiar overarching ideas, the narrative provides for an exciting set of encounters that rely on tense and subtle action instead of over-the-top explosions and CGI visuals.
Given the subject matter, audiences are treated to a wide-range of bad guys and settings – since Trench and Stigman have connections to the DEA, Navy SEALs, drug lords, and other morally ambiguous organizations. As a result, 2 Guns moves quickly from one place to the next – without relying too heavily on a single set piece or locale – making for a hurried but still well-paced adventure. The plot doesn’t get too bogged down in the dynamics between Trench and Stigman, either – since the film leans on sharp dialogue and chemistry to sell the pair’s evolving relationship.
Unlike some buddy cop films, 2 Guns doesn’t bother to spend much time exploring individual characters or the intricacies of the pair’s shared partnership – placing most of the focus on sharp-tongued banter and developments in the crime plot. Kormákur dabbles with Trench more frequently than Stigman, thinly exploring the DEA agent’s reluctance in caring about others, but most of the subsequent drama only serves to fuel the larger story without providing any lasting insight into the character.
In addition, even though the director toys with Stigman’s reaction to being betrayed and abandoned by his Navy SEAL “brothers” and superiors, the thread is (again) abandoned by the end without real payoff. It’s clear that Kormákur had lofty ambitions for 2 Guns and some interesting character interaction was likely left on the cutting room floor – when the director opted to forgo nuance and drama in favor of delivering a more digestible and straightforward action-comedy. Ultimately, the choice will appeal to certain moviegoers and irk others.
Still, Washington and Wahlberg deliver an amusing set of characters. Wahlberg in particular is especially enjoyable, freed-up to be an excitable and sarcastic badass (as opposed to some of his more recent brooding/dramatic roles). In 2 Guns, Wahlberg gets to wink at waitresses, fire sniper rifles, and trade barbs with onscreen heavy-weights like Olmos and Paxton. Washington, on the other hand, trades between his undercover “Bobby Beans” hustler persona (complete with gold teeth caps) and callous DEA agent Trench, both of which provide an engaging set of foils for Wahlberg. Neither actor is breaking new ground here, but together they provide plenty of amusing moment-to-moment entertainment.
The supporting cast is solid, with a compelling performance from Paxton as the mysterious Earl; many of the film’s best scenes involve the character (especially his unique take on Russian Roulette). Earl isn’t provided enough development or backstory to be an especially unique or memorable villain, though he gets the job done as a ruthless force of nature. Olmos is another standout and Papi Greco is provided with a number of great scenes, allowing the actor to flex both his dramatic as well as (subtle) comedic chops. The cast is further rounded out with competent, albeit thin, contributions from James Marsden and Paula Patton, who each get moments to shine but are mostly just flat cogs in the 2 Guns plot.
In spite of some very predictable story elements, and stock buddy cop setups, 2 Guns offers plenty of pleasing moments – thanks to a fun pair of performances from Washington and Wahlberg. Moviegoers who are looking for blockbuster scale action or a thought-provoking crime drama will likely find Kormákur’s film to be lacking in certain areas – since the movie doesn’t rely on CGI visuals, complicated choreographed fights, or deep character development to entertain audiences. That said, 2 Guns is meant to be a straightforward action comedy and it succeeds. Borrowing elements from several time-tested buddy cop entries before it, and pairing them with a set of dynamic leads, the film should provide viewers with an absorbing time at the theater (even if it doesn’t leave a lasting impression).
If you’re still on the fence about 2 Guns, check out the trailer below:
2 Guns runs 109 minutes and is Rated R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity. Now playing in theaters.
Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check back soon for our 2 Guns episode of the SR Underground podcast.
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