2 Guns offers a couple of intriguing possibilities. Denzel Washington, who has been fine on the dramatic and action sides, has always shown a flair for the funny, yet he hasn't made many comedies. He made Carbon Copy in 1981 and Much Ado About Nothing in 1993. He's a drama guy who sometimes dabbles in action. Let's just say he hasn't been paid for providing belly laughs.
Mark Wahlberg has made a lot of action films, but most of them stink (Contraband, The Big Hit). His comedies, on the other hand, mark some of his very best work, with the action comedy The Other Guys being a shining example.
So, does 2 Guns provide a nice chance for Washington to be funnier, and an opportunity for Wahlberg to bring the laughs while shooting his gun in an action movie that isn't completely lame?
The answer is a mild "yes." 2 Guns gets no accolades for originality, but the Washington/Wahlberg combo is a winning one for sure. And an extremely tasty and nasty turn by Bill Paxton as a satanic CIA man helps things along. It's not a straight-up comedy, but it has a good share of action-comedy laughs.
Washington plays Bobby Trench, an undercover DEA agent trying to take down a Mexican drug cartel led by the dude from Miami Vice and Battlestar Galactica (Edward James Olmos). Wahlberg is Stig, AWOL from the Navy and looking to clear his name, and some other nonsense that I didn't really follow.
The two don't know that about each other, and through a bunch of "only in the movies" circumstances find themselves teamed up and robbing a bank, unaware that each of them is undercover, or lying about who they are, or whatever. They rob the bank expecting to net a certain amount of money, but wind up with a lot more. Enter Bill Paxton.
Paxton is mightily adept at playing a man of compromised morals. He has a bit involving Russian roulette that is actually quite chilling. He chews on every delivery as if it were a mouthful of awesome beef jerky (or turkey jerky if you don't eat cow). I haven't enjoyed Paxton this much in a movie since he wielded an ax and spouted religious claptrap in the 2001 underrated gem Frailty.
The film kicks into a higher gear when the Washington and Wahlberg characters realize each other's true identities, and work together to overcome various betrayals and double-crosses inflicted upon them by the CIA, girlfriends, the Navy, the snot-nosed kid down the street and Jesus. Everybody seems to be out to screw these guys.
I like Wahlberg most when he's trying to be funny. I especially liked a sequence where his character is berating a group of men for torturing chickens while he himself is chewing on a barbecued chicken leg. His character has a strange sort of exuberance about him; a goofy childlike wonder coupled with a shooter's deadeye that makes him a pretty cool action-comedy partner.
Washington is often called upon to be serious or frighteningly badass, with the occasional chance to cry while totally not looking like he's going to cry (I will never forget that tear shooting out of his face in Glory). Here, he's allowed to cut loose in a way he has never really done before, and Wahlberg proves a great counterpart.
Of course, none of this would really work if director Baltasar Kormákur had screwed things up, much like he did with Wahlberg and the awful Contraband. 2 Guns is a far more straightforward film than that convoluted mess. The many chases and shootouts crackle with the kind of intensity that we action movie mavens crave this time of year.
This is a testosterone-heavy movie, with Paula Patton playing the only female character that really registers. As Deb, Bobby's DEA partner and sometime partner in nudity, Patton does just fine. Her character, like every character in the film, is a bit of a stereotype, but she handles it with grace. She also gets partially naked, for this is an R-rated film; it's targeted at men, and most men (and many women) want to see her naked. She proves to be a good sport and, well, an actress who will most certainly get naked.
The makers of this movie clearly have a dilemma if they go for a sequel. It's not that we won't be clamoring for another Washington/Wahlberg pairing, because they are good together. It's just that it will be difficult to name the thing.
Perhaps they could call it 2 Guns 2? Or 2 Guns II? Or how about 2 Guns: Even Gunnier? Why not Mark Wahlberg Is Super Funny When He Acts Like a 10-Year-Old, and He Does it Again in This Poorly Named Sequel? I dunno ... some decision-makers have a legitimate dilemma on their hands.