Stars: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, Fred Ward, James Marsden, Edward James Olmos | Written by Blake Masters, Steven Grant | Directed by Baltasar Kormákur
Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg talk quickly and shoot things in this knockabout action comedy set along the US-Mexican border. They play a pair of dudes involved in drug running and bank robbing who unbeknownst to each other are both actually undercover agents of the DEA and Navy Intelligence. During the course of the film, they work this important detail out and uncover a mire of corruption and dodgy dealing. In order to restore a semblance of order and justice to the world, the duo must team up and kick arse, which they do. Denzel Washington wears a silly hat.
Baltasar Kormákur directed this film. He also directed Wahlberg in Contraband, a remake of an Icelandic actioner in which Kormákur himself starred. Interesting, no? The film is based, like so many these days, on a graphic novel, this one by Steven Grant.
Much of the success of 2 Guns is reliant on the relationship between its two stars. Mark Wahlberg seems to be riding a wave of general goodwill in recent years, so a project in which he gets to be tough and actiony as well as do some jokes seems a decent move for the guy. He’s unlikely to be packing out the multiplexes like he did with bear-profanity vehicle Ted last year, but I assume he was handsomely remunerated for his services and looks like he had fun making it.
Similarly, Denzel Washington has been going for some fairly stodgy work too and 2 Guns fits nicely into the canon of competently made but unlikely to set world alight punch, shoot and one-liner films he’s recently starred in, alongside Safe House, Unstoppable, The Book of Eli and The Taking of Pelham 123. They make for a reasonably engaging pair of leads, though I would suggest neither fully fit the roll of a naturally comedic force. Wahlberg’s recent work in comedy has generally seen him playing off a more recognised comedy partner – such as Will Ferrell in The Other Guys or Seth McFarlane in Ted – and I don’t think anyone immediately associates Washington with riotous funnies. As such, neither actor really carries the film in a comedic sense, which left me wanting more in that department. Their general back and forth is decent though and they make a watchable if not world-beating partnership.
The plot of the film is perhaps needlessly complicated, or maybe I just didn’t pay enough attention. Arguably the convoluted machinations would be better communicated in the narrative’s original medium. I liked the film’s sun blushed colour palette, which was pleasingly bright and cheerful. The supporting cast – which includes the likes of Paula Patton, Bill Paxton and James Marsden – are… well, just kind of there, really. The writing is fairly okay, but as the opening scene demonstrates, Blake Masters was rather desperately wishing his script was Reservoir Dogs when he was writing it, which it patently is not. Seriously – writing dialogue between criminals in a diner arguing about tips is a great way to draw unfavourable comparisons to your script. Also, I think the phrase ‘make it rain’ is stupid and unnecessary because it’s not something real humans say. I don’t assign star ratings, but if I did, I would dock any film that includes this line one star per instance of usage.
The thing about 2 Guns is that whilst it doesn’t really do anything particularly wrong (‘make it rain’ notwithstanding), it doesn’t really do anything much at all. It’s a solid piece of work, but unlikely to make much of an impression on the collective consciousness. I liked it during the watching, but even now, the memory of it is slipping away like the retreating tide of a by the number-the-numbers buddy-cop sea. By way of comparison, I saw Shoot ‘Em Up for the first time since its DVD release on Channel Five last night. Now there’s a witty, inventive, genuinely smirk-inducing slice of genre fun starring two decent actors that managed to make a positive impression upon me a number of years ago that has lasted until today. If anyone can say that about 2 Guns in 2019, I’ll eat Denzel Washington’s silly hat.