With solid chemistry between them, Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg provide the foundation for a noisy popcorn movie for adults in “2 Guns.”
The plot elements are all there, with two people forming an uneasy alliance wherein they must trust each other to survive, and build mutual respect while cheating death amid twists and betrayals. The title is a grand understatement — there are a heck of a lot more than two guns in this movie, and most are very active, but it seems only Washington’s and Wahlberg’s characters took any target practice.
Baltasar Kormakur, who helmed the earlier Walhberg vehicle “Contraband,” directs at a brisk pace the screenplay by Blake Masters, who adapted from Steven Grant’s Boom! Studios graphic novel. The main characters manage to get in a lot of sarcastic and bickering dialogue in between the shootouts, explosions, crashing vehicles and miraculous escapes. Wahlberg gets the better lines, but in his cool and confident way, Washington gets the upper hand.
Washington is Bobby Trench, a DEA agent, while Walhberg is Michael “Stig” Stigman, a naval intelligence officer. Although working together, each one is unaware the other is a government agent gone undercover, thus each one is willing to have the other take the fall to succeed in the mission. In an effort to take down a drug cartel king, Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos), they rob a bank where supposedly $3 million of Greco’s drug money is stashed.
But it turns out there is a lot more money in the bank, more than $41 million. Bobby is the first of the duo to tip his hand about being on the government payroll, leaving Stig no choice but to strand Bobby out in the desert. But the resourceful DEA agent manages to survive.
In a bit of a mess, Stig turns to his handler, Quince (James Marsden). Unable to turn up Bobby’s body, Quince throws Stig under the bus, forcing the naval officer to go rogue. Meanwhile, Bobby is finding that his shaky relationship with fellow DEA agent Deb (Paula Patton), marred by romantic but muddy entanglement, is not going to help him find out whose money really was stolen from the bank
Well, surprise. The money belonged to the CIA, and its head guy, Earl (Bill Paxton), a man with way too much power, some shady alliances and a sadistic nature, does not care who dies or whose life is ruined as long as he gets the money back.
Thus Bobby and Stig have to renew their partnership, now amid distrust, to ward off not only a nasty CIA official with a lot of deadly hardware at his disposal but also a vengeful Greco and his men.
All of this leads to a bloody finale with everybody shooting everybody else, a free-for-all that includes government agencies in fatal confrontation..
One wonders if CIA and other intelligence personnel get tired of these movies that portray their agencies as bumbling, evil and corrupt. Or do they smirk and shrug it off as fiction. Meanwhile, the audience has a nice time enjoying two charismatic actors doing what they do best.