Even as an action flick on the surface, much of these films’ success lives or dies on the chemistry between the actors – Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan, etc.
With the new buddy-action film 2 Guns, perhaps you can add Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg to that list. Both proven tough guy heavyweights, but neither necessarily with comedic backgrounds (though Wahlberg does have a slight edge), the two play off of each other so well you would think they had been doing this for years. Unfortunately, while their playful back-and-forth is the highlight, the rest of the film is a rather lackluster action affair.
Unbeknownst to one another, an undercover DEA agent (Washington) and an undercover naval intelligence officer (Wahlberg) find themselves on the run after a botched attempt to infiltrate a Mexican drug cartel. While fleeing, they learn the secret of their shaky alliance, and ultimately team up (for real this time) to take down those who betrayed them.
Though formulaic to a fault, it is entertaining to watch the two men flip-flop their allegiances to one another – from faking friendship to hating each other to finding real brotherhood in the end. And while the comedy seems to come quite easy for both the smooth, gold-toothed Denzel and cocky, silver-tongued Wahlberg, the rest of the film falters. The unnecessarily convoluted plot tries too hard, while the simple and underwhelming action scenes do not try hard enough. New characters are brought in on a whim to add intrigue and everyone constantly betray one another. The action scenes all unfold in similar fashion – chaotic shootouts devolving into Mexican standoffs, tons of flying bullets, and lots of dead bodies.
In the end, there are too many underdeveloped and randomly assigned bad guys adding to the needlessly twisty story. Bill Pullman is intimidating and off-putting as a crooked CIA agent, Edward James Olmos is somewhat ruthless, but mostly underwritten as the cartel leader, and James Marsden is an uncharacteristic, two-faced jerk. Oh yeah, and Paula Patton (pretty much the only woman in the whole movie) is there to show some sexy skin.
All of this is typical action B-movie fodder - which, in this case, thanks to the two leads - adds up to a pulpy, watchable, if not mostly enjoyable film without much urgency or consequence.
Though set mostly in Texas and Mexico, 2 Guns was filmed partially in New Orleans and Kenner, with New Mexico filling in for the desert scenes. This marks Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur’s second visit to NOLA (and second team up with star Wahlberg), as he also shot 2012’s Contraband in the city.
*** out of 5 stars
This review and others also available on my examiner.com page, here.