‘2 Guns’ Review
There's the old quote repeated by John Lennon, "life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." '2 Guns,' starring the formidable Denzel Washington and the affable Mark Wahlberg, feels like the type of movie big stars make when they are in-between the projects they'll end up being proud of. '2 Guns' isn't terrible – it's just rare to see a movie content with “agreeable in-flight entertainment” as its highest achievement.
We open with Washington and Wahlberg casing out a bank. They zing one another at the diner, all swagger, doing that schtick where they quibble like fishwives about mundane topics (pancakes vs. hash browns?), but you know violence is about to bust out any minute. The funky score starts to thrum, reminiscent of David Homes' soundtrack to Soderbergh's 'Out of Sight.' If you told me '2 Guns' was a 1997 period piece, I wouldn't argue. (The only cell phones in the film are for voice use – how retro!)
Our leads are tough guys, and looking to make a big score with south of the border drug kingpin Edward James Olmos. About thirty minutes in, we get our first switcheroo: Denzel is actually an undercover DEA agent, and while he genuinely seems to like Wahlberg, he's ready to give him up 'Donnie Brasco'-style if it means capturing the big fish.
Not enough English on the ball? Okay, how's this: we later learn that Wahlberg is undercover, too! He's working for Naval Intelligence and he thinks he's the one pulling the strings. Both men don't realize the other isn't who they claim to be (a drug-running baddie) but, more importantly, neither realize they're both pawns in a larger game. When they open that bank vault (with the intention of blaming the impropriety on the other party) they get a lot more than they bargain for.
What follows is a needlessly complex and fundamentally uninteresting Gordian knot of running, chasing, shooting and authority figures who are supposed to be good ending up being bad. It ends with a lengthy shootout with a high body count, interrupted by phony jokes. Really, who in the hell could possibly care about this? Luckily, the movie is saved from total tedium by Washington and Wahlberg. They didn't get this far without the charisma gene and when the relentless plot and violence is put on hold for a minute to let the two vamp it is hard not to smile.
The basic gag is that Wahlberg is yipping around Washington like a puppy. He wants to be his partner and pal, and Washington just wants to be a badass. It's very cute. Even when they are beating the hell out of each other, you can tell that Wahlberg would rather call a truce to have a light beer and watch the game.
That's pretty much it. That's the sole differentiator between '2 Guns' and every other cop movie you half-remember from flipping through cable TV. If that's enough of a selling point, by all means, check this movie out. When you are done, return your seatbacks and tray tables to their original, upright position.
'2 Guns' opens in theaters on August 2.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen in the New York Daily News and on Badass Digest and StarTrek.com.