They’re the best of friends and the coolest of bank-robbing criminals. But Robert Trench (Denzel Washington) and Marcus Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) have each been hiding something from the other—namely, that they work undercover for the United States government. Trench is DEA, Stigman Navy intelligence, and they’re both trying to infiltrate the same drug cartel, run by the bullish Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). After they hit a small-town savings and loan where Greco supposedly funnels his cash, they get quite a surprise, and soon have everyone from gangland heavies to the CIA on their tails.
Adding another American mediocrity to his binational oeuvre, after the Wahlberg-headlined thriller Contraband (2012), Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur at least keeps the early sections of this slam-bang-boom action flick fleet and intriguing. The sunburned Southern U.S. locales are nicely utilized, and Washington and Wahlberg have clearly been encouraged to riff and rap with each other to their heart’s delight. (Never underestimate the pleasure of watching two bona fide movie stars having a lark.) It also helps that the graphic-novel-inspired film is scripted by Blake Masters, creator of the late Showtime series Brotherhood, who knows a thing or two about memorable characterization. Even supporting players like Olmos and Bill Paxton (the latter plays a merciless, Russian-roulette-loving government operative) get meaty roles to sink their teeth into. A shame, then, that 2 Guns quickly degenerates into boilerplate Hollywood sound and fury, complete with a climactic Mexican standoff that revolves around a massive, burning pile of money. Irony, thou art lost.
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