Their first pairing, 2 Guns, finds them in a modern western, set on the wild, wild border between US and Mexico. With a tip of Denzel Washington’s hat to the numerous diversions that this story attempts, I will try to keep this recap brief and neat: Washington plays Robert ‘Bobby Beans’ Trench, a rugged DEA agent working undercover unbeknownst to his partner Michael ‘Stig’ Stigman (Mark Wahlberg), who is himself undercover on behalf of the United States Navy Special Forces. Bobby answers to superior Jessup (Robert John Burke), and works alongside Deb (Paula Patton), of whom he has a not-so romantic history with. Stig is following the orders of crazy Navy man Lt. Quince (James Marsden), who also has a group of MPs enlisted in his own bizarre plot of corruption.Bobby and Stig get paired up to rob a bank in Texas called Tres Cruzes, which is said to be containing three million dollars that belongs to a Mexican smuggler named Papi Greco (played with great disguise by Edward James Olmos). In a course of events that involves blowing up a diner, getting caught at the border and then robbing the aforementioned bank, the duo figures out the truth about the other’s identity while deciding how to divvy up the loot. Even worse, they find out soon enough that the loot they’ve taken actually belongs to the CIA. Chased by lead CIA sociopath Earl (Bill Paxton), the two work together and at odds, all in order to get the money to their superiors and not get killed in the process. This modern day Odd Couple clicks together Washington’s dark comedy with Wahlberg’s recent interest in loudmouth doofuses, creating the film’s primary charm of an instant chemistry. Unfortunately, it also leaves the viewer wondering if 2 Guns would just be a cheap bag of mostly stale pretzels without them. The two mold their characters well to match their individual comedic chutzpah, Washington furrowing his brow with only hints of his usual condescending tone, while Wahlberg winks his way through repeated jokes that somehow don’t get tiresome. Thankfully, it is not wasted on a generic buddy cop comedy; these two deliver on such an anticipated casting that it allows the stars to coast through the film at a comfortable, but never lazy pace. The reckless fun of Wahlberg & Washington meets its yang with the thoroughly dark, but still kind of funny antagonists played by Bill Paxton and James Edward Olmos. Wearing a classic villain’s grin is the especially surprising Paxton, who readily assumes the compelling post of being a leading moral outlaw to be feared. Catered to by extended shots that let them run through creepy mini-monologues, these characters may not be all that different from head honchos we have seen before in movies (think Jeff Daniels and his squirrel beard in Looper), but with the time given to them, not to mention the swift shifts of comedy that both are in control of, the usually harmless actors presents a solid antagonizing force in a movie that often aims for buddy comedy. Driven by repetitive bass riffs that seem to be more inspired by David Holmes’ Ocean’s Eleven scores than typical bandit jams, the Clinton Shorter score for 2 Guns maintains a slick, cool air as it navigates a story with more plot turns than action set pieces. Kind of like The Big Lebowski, 2 Guns plays out like a bizarre parody on the storytelling cliché of double identities, twists and other forms of plot-playing madcappery. The original concept of the movie is goofy in itself, (“No, Frank, listen, they’re BOTH undercover, but they don’t know it at first!”), yet for such a simple and fun double undercover thriller, 2 Guns doesn’t find a particularly productive boost by over-complicating things; it just makes this tangled plot about the DEA and the Navy robbing a bank even stranger. The movie is directed by the notable Baltasar Komarkur, an Icelandic filmmaker who became a valuable import for American action with his 2012 exporting thriller, Contraband. That film also starred Wahlberg, and featured a distinctively cool pacing built more on tense moments than firepower displays. Komarkur continues to show that extremely welcome maturity with his storytelling spectacle in 2 Guns, portioning out his narrative, so that it doesn’t minimize the audience’s expectations to relying on body counts or mindless gunplay. Introducing us to the summer season’s last month, 2 Guns is one of the more surprising entries to be found in 2013’s star-aligning entertainment. It has clever moments to be found in the midst of its wolfish script turns, with a playful pulpy flavor that elevates this movie’s atmosphere beyond that of typical genre fare. The relaxed repartee of the anticipated matching of Wahlberg & Washington does not disappoint. But in the end it turns out that the Icelandic addition to the new chemistry of these two American thoroughbreds is what keeps this clunky film smooth. Den of Geek Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Despite approximately 86 on-screen appearances combined and having worked with some of the same directors, the long overdue duo of Wahlberg & Washington, “Marky Mark” and “Denzel,” has not become an action movie reality until now.