A version of this review originally appeared in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette on August 8, 2013.
The always diverting, sometimes funny, occasionally uninteresting “2 Guns” features Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg in a buddy-cop, action bromance that rivals Spock and Kirk’s warp-speed love story in the latest “Star Trek.” Their chemistry is the only constant in a movie rife with plot twists that comfortably swings between sly satire and generic shoot-em-up, indulging in both, but never committing to either.
The movie opens with two seemingly bad dudes, Bobby (Mr. Washington) and Stig (Mr. Wahlberg), who are about to set fire to a diner across from the bank they will rob the next day.
We don’t yet know that Bobby is undercover DEA and Stig is undercover NCIS.
Nor do the characters know the real identity of the other. They both think they’re going to catch the other red-handed by robbing the bank and exposing the profits of a Mexican drug cartel.
Things start to look fishy when they successfully rob the bank, but find $43.125 million instead of the believed $3 million.
The robbery sets in motion a series of dupes and double crosses that manifest themselves in loud shoot-outs and a mostly uninspired car chase that looks like something out of a Dodge commercial. These scenes are aided only by the witty banter between Bobby and Stig.
“2 Guns” is best when the leading men are firing words instead of bullets, partially because the action scenes lack any kind of stylistic wit. Though based on a comic book, “2 Guns” doesn’t have the visual flair of that medium, even if it shares some of its subversive elements.
For example, the movie constantly undermines genre conventions, forgoing cliched dialogue for its own brand of unique, often nonsensical witticisms.
“You ever heard the saying,” begins Bobby to Stig in one scene, “never rob a bank across from a diner that has the best donuts in 3 counties?”
“That’s not a saying,” replies Stig.
“Yes it is,” retorts Bobby.
“No it’s not. I get what you’re saying but that’s not a saying,” concludes Stig.
Another clever scene parodies the good cop/bad cop interrogation routine by staging it in a shabby garage that has motion-sensor lighting, making it hard for Stig to intimidate a suspect because he has to keep flailing his arms every time the lights go out. Pity that such a funny scene ends in a generic shootout that leads to nothing but a generic car chase.
The few actions scenes that aren’t boring have a charm that stems from their shameless implausibility. At one point, Stig and Bobby effortlessly infiltrate a naval base by outrunning the authorities in a run-down van that in real life wouldn’t pass inspection.
Throughout the movie, Bobby and Stig dispense with bad guys and expose corrupt government organizations without breaking a sweat, emerging unscathed from even the most dire of circumstances.
Their unruffled ease describes the experience of watching “2 Guns,” which is, in the end, nothing more than delightfully tolerable, a movie you might relish in the moment, but will have no problem walking away from as the credits roll.
3 stars out of 4