The short review: While not a groundbreaking picture by any means, 2 Guns, with its big explosions, corny jokes and kinetic gunplay, feels like a throwback to a different era of summer film.
The long review: Fast talk, fast cars and non-stop action are the name of the game in 2 Guns, a film that in spite of its notable faults manages to evoke the playful bombast of Shane Black-style 1980’s action thrillers in all the right ways. And unlike Roger Murtaugh, we are most definitely not getting too old for this shit. Going into 2 Guns, I couldn’t help but feel a certain sense of dread that I was going to be subjected to an overlong, unreasonably dumb action film with phoned in performances. Yet even when it seems to be veering off the rails, Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur, who made his American breakthrough with the straightforward, Mark Wahlberg-starring Contraband, manages to steer the ship away from certain doom and set the ocean ablaze in the process.
Scripted by Blake Masters and based on a BOOM! Studios comic book series from Steven Grant, 2 Guns works in large part to the likability of its protagonists. Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg aren’t going to win any awards for their performances here, but they’ll win over audiences with their charisma, undeniable chemistry, and easy, racquetball rapport that propels the action even when the bullet casings aren’t hitting the floor.
Our first introduction to our heroes, the cool as a cucumber slickster Bobby (Denzel Washington), and fast talking charmer Stig (Mark Wahlberg), takes place in a small Texas diner. A shameless flirt, Stig works the waitress with all the subtlety of a carpet bombing as Bobby tries not to roll his eyes out of his head. Still, it becomes apparent that not even a pretty face can separate the duo as they leap into action, setting the diner ablaze as a diversion and preparing to rob drug dealer Papi Greco’s (the frakkin’ wonderful Edward James Olmos) $3 million stash at the bank across the street. What follows is a raucous, calculated, gleefully offensive adventure with more twists and turns than it can keep up with and more than enough villains and fun, lightning-fast banter to go around.
At times, the film suffers from veering too sharply between believability and fantasy as its crosses, double crosses, and general glibness add up to be a bit too much artifice. Kormakur’s visual style manages to create the sense that you’re watching a graphic novel come to life, which helps the suspension of disbelief even as the action grows more implausible with situations like Bobby and Stig finding themselves hunted by rogue Navy officers (led by James Marsden), a nutcase CIA enforcer (played for maximum effect by Bill Paxton), and a murderous Mexican drug cartel. Compounding the believability issues is the film’s inability to decide whether it wants to go full bore on the funny or take itself seriously as an action movie. The tonal dissonance is one of the factors that prevents the film from making the leap from good to great.
Still, at the end of the day, 2 Guns is a lean, stylized barnburner of a summer film and an enjoyable world in which to spend two hours out of the sweltering summer heat. 2 Guns is as clever as it is dumb and as dumb as it is clever, and honestly, sometimes that’s exactly what the doctor ordered. Given its relative lack of fanfare and promotion and its hard-R sensibility, 2 Guns may be one of the biggest, silliest and best surprises to hit cinemas this summer, so don’t let this one slip past your cinematic crosshairs.
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