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Washington, Wahlberg Are Bad Boys, And Whatcha Gonna Do?

Aug 1, 2013

Hypermacho but tongue-in-cheek, the first 20 minutes of 2 Guns are enormous fun. Tough guys Bobby and Stig (Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg) bicker and flirt — with a pretty diner waitress, and with each other — while casing a small-town Texas bank.

Then they set the diner on fire, don masks, and knock over the bank for $43 million, all while taking care to save any cops from getting hurt and even kissing an available baby. The heist, it would seem, has gone according to plan. Yet something's a little off.

In fact, nearly everything's a little off, including the bulk of Blake Masters' script (derived from a comics series written by Steven Grant). As the countdown-clock plot ticks toward its conclusion, every tock moves the movie further into overplotted tedium.

It turns out that, though neither knows the other's true identity, both Bobby and Stig are not crooks but undercover agents, and each is trying to use the other to snare a Mexican drug lord (Edward James Olmos). Bobby works for the DEA, which is plausible, while Stig toils for, uh, Naval Intelligence.

Naval Intelligence targets Mexican drug cartels? Why not have Stig employed by the CIA? The movie does provide an answer to the latter question: Bobby can't be CIA because the tale also has a role for that agency, embodied by the purringly sadistic Earl (Bill Paxton). So the battle over the stolen $43 million becomes a four-way contest, and that's not counting a few double-crossers.

Stig reports to a by-the-rulebook officer (James Marsden) who may not apply the same rigor to his own behavior; Bobby, to his colleague and sometime lover Deb (Paula Patton). She's depicted nearly nude and with leering close-ups of her sexy bits in a hotel makeout-session scene so much like the one in Flight as to suggest that such moments are obligatory in any R-rated Denzel Washington movie. (Maybe they're in the actor's rider, like Van Halen's no-brown-M&M's directive?)

Having betrayed each other, Bobby and Stig are then forced to work together, though they're still inclined to quarrel. (During one dispute, they roll around in the dirt, punching as wildly as little boys.) The agents are constantly on the move, with regular jaunts across the Mexican border, all while being pursued by multiple varieties of thugs.

One advantage of their being frantically and forever on the run is that the guys are constantly grabbing new cars, trucks or dune buggies; they switch vehicles as often as the protagonists of a chick flick might change shoes.

The action is helmed efficiently, and with blessedly little CGI, by Baltasar Kormakur, who directed Wahlberg in Contraband but started by making arty little films in his native Iceland. Kormakur's work is well supported by Michael Tronick's taut editing and Clinton Shorter's rousing if predictable ambient-blues score.

The script is less propulsive, and not just because it's overstuffed with reversals and revelations. 2 Guns loses its charm amid multiple incidents of torture and brutality, including animal cruelty, and its attempt to riff on reports of CIA involvement in the drug trade just burdens a movie whose adolescent-daydream ideas about manliness aren't terribly helpful as an approach to real-world issues. When two charismatic bad boys are being chased across the border by phalanxes of cops, thugs and spies, social commentary is just so much excess baggage.

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