2 Guns review

2 Guns movie screenshot_img32
Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg buddy up for the first time in Baltasar Kormákur's action-comedy, '2 Guns'.

2 Guns is in a precarious place as a summer movie. It’s got enough star power in its ensemble to justify the mid-year release, but the scale isn’t quite “big” enough to settle it in alongside blockbuster heavies like Pacific Rim or Fast and Furious 6. That puts it more on the level of something like fellow ensemble Red 2, only it doesn’t have the built-in sequel audience to lean on.

What it does have is personality. Lots of personality. 2 Guns is the latest stop in Hollywood’s ongoing creative pillaging of the comic book world for summer action fodder, though this source material is obscure enough that ignorance is a forgivable offense. It’s the cast that you’re there to see, and this bunch is clearly having such a good time together that you can’t help being swept up in it.

2 Guns is the latest stop in Hollywood’s ongoing creative pillaging of the comic book world for summer action fodder

At the core of the ensemble are stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, paired up for the first time in what amounts to an action-fueled buddy comedy. It’s a perfectly odd coupling; Washington’s cool and collected schtick counterpoints well to Wahlberg’s wide-eyed wisecracker. You pick up on it immediately, as the two saunter into a sleepy, small-town diner lobbing barbs back and forth in the movie’s opening minutes.

The plot is of the “heist gone wrong” variety. Undercover DEA agent Bobby Trench (Washington) and undercover NCIS operative Marcus “Stig” Stigman rob a bank filled with dirty money for perfectly aboveboard reasons, each unaware of the other’s true identity. The job goes off with no troubles, but their $3 million take turns out to be $43 million. What should have been a simple wrap-up for both turns out to be a frame-up, and it’s not long before the two are forced into an uneasy truce.

To say more would spoil the fun of Blake Masters’ intricately crafted script. There are many layers to this story, twists upon twists that pile into a fast-paced plot that rewards the attentive moviegoer. This is tight, uncompromising storytelling; let your attention drift, and you’ll surely miss something.

Fortunately, there’s little here that bores. We’ve already established that Wahlberg and Washington play well together, and they’re backed by an equally effective ensembles. Bill Paxton is a noteworthy highlight, imbuing his typically disarming smile with a hefty dose of menace in the role of a smooth, Southern spook.

In one particularly memorable scene, Paxton’s Earl interrogates Trench with a tense, non-lethal game of Russian roulette. Their patter-filled posturing becomes your sole focus as scenery is chewed all around them, but it’s Paxton farewell monologue riff on Trench’s impressive… uh… package that steals the scene. It’s a gleefully villainous turn for this nice-guy actor, a shout back to Paxton’s colorful work from the days before he was swallowed by the HBO “It’s not TV” machine.

Bill Paxton is a noteworthy highlight, imbuing his typically disarming smile with a hefty dose of menace in the role of a smooth, Southern spook.

Lesser nods to additional support from Edward James Olmos, as a Mexican drug lord, James Marsden, as Stig’s snakey commanding officer, and Paula Patton, as Trench’s handler-slash-former lover Deb. None grab as much screen time as Paxton does, nor do they leave as memorable a mark, but each has an important role to play the complicated web that is 2 Guns‘ plot.

As a result, we’re left with a supporting cast that is necessarily rich with talent. They all amount to largely one-note caricatures – really, that goes for the two stars as well – but they’re drawn so well that it doesn’t matter. These roles could easily have been throwaways, but for the talents of the three actors. A special nod as well to Fred Ward’s solitary scene, a glibly commentary-ridden run-in with Wahlberg; we just don’t see enough of the likable Remo Williams star anymore.

The swirling talents and spectacle of 2 Guns are held together under the capable direction of Baltasar Kormákur, the Icelandic filmmaker who is best known for his more serious work on A Little Trip to Heaven and 2012 Best Foreign Language Oscar contender The Deep. There’s an effortless flow to the unfolding story, and credit the director for keeping his performers in check and knowing which scenes string together best.

2 Guns movie screenshot_img13
Washington’s Bobby Trench plays an undercover DEA agent who ends up on the run after an assignment goes very, very wrong.

Kormákur naturally puts the majority of the focus on his Washington/Wahlberg coupling. Why wouldn’t he? The two actors share an easy chemistry that, coupled with their natural charisma, is never dull to watch. You get the sense that Kormákur didn’t have to do much to tease out their witty back-and-forth; in truth, he probably didn’t.

The director ultimately assembles all the pieces together well. With so much talent arrayed around Washington and Wahlberg, temptation must have been high for Kormákur to inflate the running time with deeper development for the supporting cast. He never succumbs, however, never forgets that his secondary players exist in service to the plot, not vice versa.

2 Guns is as light as light moviegoing fare can be, but with some heavy talent to back it up. The story explodes ever-forward under Kormákur’s capable direction, carried along effortlessly by the witty Washington/Wahlberg repartee. It lacks the hype and scope of the summer blockbuster that summons armies of moviegoers out to theaters during the mid-year months, but there’s a tight focus on fast and fun storytelling that makes 2 Guns well worth your time.

(Images and video © Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved.)

Movies & TV

Disney debuts the first photos from Star Wars series The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian, Jon Favreau's live-action Star Wars series planned for Disney's streaming video service, will be one of the most expensive television shows ever made. Here's everything we know about it so far.

From fatalities to new characters, here's what we know about Mortal Kombat 11

Mortal Kombat 11 releases April 23 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Here is everything we know about NetherRealm's latest fighting game, including its characters.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in March, from Buster Scruggs to Roma

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (April 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

Can't get enough lightsaber action? Here's how to get your Star Wars fix online

Few of us want to deal with DVDs or Blu-ray discs anymore. Unfortunately, the Star Wars movies are few and far between when it comes to streaming. If you want to watch Star Wars online, check out our guide on where to find the films.
Movies & TV

After Avengers: Endgame, what’s next for the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Here's what we know so far about the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Avengers: Endgame, from rumors and speculation about Phase 4 of the MCU to confirmed facts, films, and television shows.
Home Theater

Game of Thrones’ season 8 premiere reminds us why Daenerys shouldn’t be queen

In the premiere episode of Game of Thrones' eighth season, Daenerys Targaryen is poised to rule the Seven Kingdoms, but all the evidence indicates that she's a terrible candidate for the job.
Movies & TV

The 7 best TV episodes you can watch on YouTube for free

TV networks have made a habit of putting episodes from popular series on YouTube for free. From premium platforms like Showtime to experimental newcomers like Viceland, we compiled a few of the best episodes available on YouTube.
Movies & TV

Did I really watch that? Here's how to delete your Netflix viewing history

Everybody has some skeletons in their streaming closet, but you don't have to live with them if you don't want to. Learning how to delete your Netflix viewing history is easy, and we're here to help.
Movies & TV

Two Toy Story spinoffs schedule playdates with the Disney Plus streaming service

Disney's direct-to-consumer streaming video service Disney Plus will launch with an impressive catalog of classic content, new projects, and original shows and movies. Here is everything confirmed and rumored to be coming to the platform.
Home Theater

What’s new on Amazon Prime Video and what’s leaving in May 2019

Amazon Prime Video adds new titles each month that are available for free to all Prime members. Check out our list to find all the content hitting Amazon Prime Video in April and May, from new original series to classic films.
Movies & TV

Marvel and IMAX release even more Avengers: Endgame footage

The events of Avengers: Infinity War changed the Marvel Cinematic Universe in some big ways and left fans wondering how its heroes can possibly recover. Here's everything we know about Avengers: Endgame, the sequel to Infinity War.
Home Theater

What’s new on Hulu in May 2019, and what’s leaving soon

Our complete list of what's new on Hulu for May 2019, our personal favorites, and which titles will be removed will help you catch up on all the site has to offer -- and ensure you don't miss any titles heading into the streaming ether.