2 Guns, starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, is an action film happy to revel in its own silliness.
One of the great joys of the new action comedy 2 Guns is that an awful lot of talent and expertise has been expended on a project that sounds, at first, like it was dreamt up by a halfwit.
Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg play two career criminals, who rob banks, steal cars, fire pistols and trade quips. The movie’s appeal relies heavily on the two central performances from Wahlberg and Washington and the chemistry between them as the two come together as undercover operatives to infiltrate a drug cartel. The twist is that each of them, unbeknownst to the other, is working undercover for the US state.
Baltasar Kormákur’s command of the language of American action cinema has improved immeasurably since last year’s Contraband, which had Wahlberg in a similarly blue-collar but far less memorable role.
Washington plays Bobby, a DEA agent posing as a fixer for a Mexican drug cartel. He teams up with Stig (Wahlberg), a freelance gunman who’s actually a full-time employee of the US Navy.
The details are a joy: Wahlberg’s denim jacket has a shark painted on the back, and between lines he rolls a wad of chewing gum around his mouth. Whenever the two are on screen together they look like they might burst out laughing at any moment, and crucially we feel like we’re in on the joke.
The plan is to fleece the cartel for $4 million, which is stashed in a small-town bank; instead, they discover and make off with a stash of nearly $50 million, which belongs to the CIA. Through this tangle of double- and triple-crosses slithers Bill Paxton as the sadistic Agent Earl, who wants his money back at any cost.
There’s a sly corruption subtext, but no one’s in the mood to labour it: instead, the good times keep rolling. Paula Patton, as Bobby’s DEA squeeze, smoulders like the embers of a Texan barbecue. Cars explode, as does a helicopter. Mexicans and chickens are shot to bits.
On paper, 2 Guns is a formulaic action-heavy buddy movie, but in practice, it turns out to be an above average attempt at crafting something refreshingly sparky. Amid the mayhem, 2 Guns is at Zen-like peace with the fact that it doesn’t matter one bit, and I chuckled and gasped through every not-mattering minute.
By Ruth Walker