Rated: R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: August 2, 2013 Released by: Universal Studios, Inc.
A propulsive comedic action thriller derived from a graphic novel series definitely has its pleasures and shocking interludes yet still can be unnecessarily convoluted and not as smart as it would lead you to believe.
But, 2 Guns, has Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg at the top of the marquee and in its favor as at times can be seen at times as a satire of the buddy genre like Wahlberg who was in The Other Guys with Will Ferrell.
Like that cop film Wahlberg plays against type here with voluble soulful confidence as Stig paired with the calm, cool quick-witted Bobby done with a certain amount of taciturn cogency by Washington, last seen in an award-caliber turn in Robert Zemeckis's Flight and earlier as a renegade CIA man in Safe House.
The script by Blake Masters involves their unique alliance grabbing a safe deposit box in a small-town Texas bank from a Mexican drug kingpin, Papi Greco (underrated veteran actor Edward James Olmos remembered mostly from the small-screen Miami Vice but sharp in lesser known efforts like Stand and Deliver). From the ads neither is aware of the other being a federal agent, Stig from Naval Intelligence and Bobby from the D.E.A. They're working undercover to uphold the law as members of a narcotics syndicate.
The narrative hook on Bobby and Stig is a betrayal leading to fleeing and trying to save face while trying to get to the bottom of it all from the bank that was much more fully funded than anticipated. An adult, honest candor from the visceral side comes by way of Icelandic helmer Baltasar Kormakur as the proceedings don't get too lurid even if some viewers at least from a visual side of his being influenced by the likes of Quentin Tarantino or Joel and Ethan Coen, not just from a setting standpoint.
When one considers all that occurs it can be a little far-fetched and a bit wearying given all of the conflict that goes along with it; the action isn't that great or in the forefront even if an explosive climax is a certainty. The thorny goings-on and the sense of distrust between the leads has a stimulating quality about it as the timing of and between Washington and Wahlberg consistently engages in an amusing way.
So, the humor and casting that Kormakur (better here with a Vince Vaughn-ish Wahlberg than in their earlier Contraband) takes advantage will go a long way even if the final twists don't unfold in truly gratifying fashion. In this tightly controlled daredevil fervor with much attitude (maybe somewhat to its detriment) to burn, there's Paula Patton as a fellow agent and occasional love interest for Bobby as well as James Marsden as Stig's smugly unctuous boss. Better are the aforementioned seedy Olmos and especially the enigmatic cool Southern menace of Bill Paxton as Earl on the prowl for the lifted loot.
2 Guns at least isn't one of those autopilot type of overblown extravaganzas that big stars as these could have phoned in; yet even with the observational and sly misdirecting machinations from smooth operators heading a solid line-up a memorably taut tale never takes flight.