I love me some double cross in film. Look back into history and you'll see Payback, Jackie Brown, and even Iron Man with elements of the double cross. While the buddy-copy 2 Guns is a punchy action film ripped from a comic book, the film also channels about every action subgenre imaginable, and is full of wise-crackin' mirth-filled moments, sexual advances, and enough cussing and the aforementioned double-cross to fill a tip jar. Unfortunately, it's not very inventive and actually overdoes the double-cross by adding a third- and even fourth layer to muck things up.
Bobby (Denzel Washington) and Stig (Mark Wahlberg) are criminals for hire, except that they're not really criminals. Stig is an undercover Navy officer, while Bobby is an undercover DEA agent, neither of whom knows each other's true identity. Circumstances bring the two together as they plan to steal $3 million from the Mexican drug lord Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). They each think this act will benefit their respective agencies, only to discover that the vault contains $43.125 million. When neither party gets their promised back up upon the successful heist, the two split up, with Stig taking the cash, and Bobby taking a bullet. As the full effect of their robbery becomes apparent to them, the two rejoin forces to find the real owner of the cash, while several agencies descend upon them. But who does the money belong to: Stig's commander Quince (James Marsden), Papi Greco, Bobby's oft-nude lover Deb (Paula Patton), or the psychotic CIA agent Earl (Bill Paxton)?
A film like this will remind you a lot of other stuff, including 2010's The Losers which boasted a similarly amazing cast but came up short in its story. Here, Director Baltasar Kormákur and Writer Blake Masters miss the potential for a deeper telling, surrounding us instead with action we've already seen in better productions and dropping fancy one-liners like they were on a BOGO free sale at K Mart. It's a lot like this year's Escape Plan, which we loved because it found a better balance, keeping the one-liners to a minimum while emphasizing better action. 2 Guns doesn't take itself seriously enough, creating caricatures rather than giving our characters something meaty to say. At the same time, I get the impression that Wahlberg and Washington don't really care whether we hate what they're doing or not; they seem to enjoy each other's ad-libbing while trying desperately to keep this production afloat. Even Paxton and Olmos seem to relish their roles, leaving Marsden and Patton out in the cold with lines that never develop them past one-dimensional driftwood. Still, we liked the implausible action of the film, the slow motion shootouts, and the comedy, even if the story is hopelessly muddied and filled with gigantic plot holes. I guess my forgiveness lies in seeing actors go outside of their comfort zones: it's nice once in awhile to see the usually serious Washington and the unflappable Wahlberg in something this wild and gangling.
The idea of film like this remaining in the movie-going consciousness is hard to fathom, as there seems to be so many more (and better) like it out there. Escapism is not a new thing in American cinema, but 2 Guns misses the point, settling in as a 'switch off your brain affair' rather than something slightly deeper and better for its efforts. Perhaps that was the point from the start, but its result won't stick with you past the end credits. If your hope is to see great actors having a good time, and you're willing to see past the plot holes and numerous nods to the genre, 2 Guns will serve as an excellent mode of transportation.
For those of us who enjoy a fun, buddy-copy action comedy, 2 Guns tries hard to win our respect. We get A-list performances from Washington, Wahlberg, Paxton, and Olmos to match Kormakur's gritty desert style. Unfortunately, there are too many twists here, and several of our characters fail to endear us beyond their good looks. It's entertaining, but nowhere near unique. We encourage you to wait for a rainy day matinee to present itself, for that is when the true value of the film will become apparent. 2 Guns is rated R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity and has a runtime of 109 minutes.
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