2 Guns: They Shoot, They Bore

Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg flirt with each other in this sloppy, gun-centric action flick

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Patti Perret / Universal Studios

My notes from the action comedy 2 Guns look like this: Stick? … Steak? … Stick … No, Stig! … Stig?

That it was difficult to ascertain a piece of information as basic as the name of Mark Wahlberg’s character surely says something about this confusing mess of a movie. (The credits read “Marcus ‘Stig’ Stigman,” but you can understand my confusion what with all those beefy Wahlbergian muscles.) In this buddy flick, Wahlberg capably plays the hammy, wacky partner to Denzel Washington’s cooler, tough-guy cop Bobby Trench. They’re cute together, these two big stars, but the film around them, a sort of Tarantino lite, is desperately empty.

Tracing its lineage back to the Lethal Weapon series2 Guns presents what might be the most cynical assortment of bad guys ever gathered in a single film. Stig and Bobby are working undercover, posing as drug dealers, but neither knows the truth about each other’s motives. Bobby works for the DEA, and he’s trying to bring in a Mexican drug kingpin named Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). Steak, er, Stig — whom Papi describes, accurately, as a “real junkyard dog” used to be a naval intelligence officer. Booted for some infraction, he wants to steal Papi’s profits to clear his Navy record. I tried hard to be attentive but still couldn’t tell you how this is all explained, maybe because so much of the movie’s exposition tends to be delivered through loud (and distracting) exchanges of gunfire.

While Bobby and Stig can’t trust each other, they do need each other — just like Mr. & Mrs. Smith, but without the sexual tension. To complicate matters further, after Bobby and Stig’s successful heist, the CIA comes calling. It seems the stolen stash actually belongs to the CIA, which has been skimming 7% of all the drug kingpins’ cash and putting it in a community bank in a nice quiet little corner of Americana.

I’ll believe a lot of negative fictions about the CIA — look at the way the agency treats Homeland’s tortured genius Carrie Mathison — but the CIA angle in 2 Guns was the tipping point to despair. (The kind of despair where you think, Of all the scripts out there, the great Denzel Washington was drawn to this.) The agency is represented by Earl (Bill Paxton), a heavily accented Southerner who likes to wear bolo ties and suits with a cowboy cut to them. He’s vicious, heartless and fond of playing Russian roulette. Problem is: it’s Bill Paxton! Has anyone ever been truly afraid of Bill Paxton?

(MORE: TIME’s Review of Denzel Washington’s Flight)

There is but one woman in this movie, a DEA agent and occasional lover of Bobby’s named Debbie (Paula Patton). Patton is a perfectly fine actress, but the way she’s used here is relentlessly crass. In a scene that stretches the limits of hairstyling, she appears topless, but, thanks to the extensions cascading over her shoulders, almost discreetly so. You can imagine the clause in her contract: nipples yes, but only if they’re nearly veiled by hair, à la Brooke Shields in her Blue Lagoon days.

Director Baltasar Kormakur (who also directed Wahlberg in the much-less-tedious Contraband) employs a number of techniques to try to keep the viewer engaged, including disorienting flashbacks and jazzy slow-motion moments that turn into freeze-frames, but his source material is so weak, it becomes a real effort to keep up. The action sequences — there are enough guns in this movie to make the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre weak in the knees — are drearily unexceptional. This could be any buddy flick made in the past five years, with the chemistry between Washington and Wahlberg offering the only flicker of excitement.

And that’s not saying much. A couple of handsome middle-aged guys exchanging wry glances and wisecracks between wrestling matches and aiming guns at each other only goes so far. By the time Bobby and Stig are hog-tied and dangled to be beaten with baseball bats like a pair of hunky piñatas, their mutual suspicions have evolved, to no one’s surprise, into a full-blown bromance.  

Perhaps it says something that this movie is being released in August, which has become a notorious dumping ground for studios. 2 Guns is reflective of the low opinion today’s Hollywood has for movie audiences — that  we should be delighted to pay to watch some attractive actors wielding every kind of firearm. Our advice: Stay home and watch for real shooting stars instead.

MORE: TIME’s Review of Mark Wahlberg’s Contraband

11 comments
wahoorob
wahoorob

Send an indie-loving female critic to review a guy-targeted buddy cop movie? I know I'm supposed to be all "PC and stuff" and nod with her enlightened view because, after all, wouldn't the world be such a better place with women in charge?

Nah. She misses this completely. It ain't supposed to be Shakespeare. Heck, it ain't even supposed to be the Avengers. At least Miss Mary gets it right when she compares this to the Lethal Weapon movies. But she then she ignores the paper-thin bad guys from that series as though it should be held up as a paragon of good-vs-evil story-telling. I mean, c'mon...a South African diplomat as the brains behind a drug dealing operation is more believable than the CIA stashing millions in a out-of-the-way bank?

Here's the thumbnail review for any of you guys who haven't handed over your cajones to critics like this: 2 Guns is just fun. Wahlberg dials down his schtick from "The Other Guys" just enough to make this more action than comedy and Denzel is in "Man on Fire" mode, missile-locked on payback after finding he's been betrayed. Check your brain and your lady parts at the door.

koiman
koiman

Watching hickok45 on youtube is a lot more fun :)

WillieSnow
WillieSnow

it hurts to hear the Lords name used in vain in movies. I really appreciate movie scripts/dialog that just say "Dam..."! without including my lord and savior. may God bless Hollywood.

Spencer60
Spencer60

Denzel peaked a long time ago. At this point he's just in it for the money...


cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@wahoorob

"It ain't supposed to be Shakespeare. Heck, it ain't even supposed to be the Avengers."

just because it's not "supposed" to be anything or isn't aiming high doesn't mean it doesn't suck. it shouldn't get a pass just because it's a "fun" action film. movies can be "fun" but be terrible (insert any number of blockbusters here). you said it yourself: "check your brain at the door." that right there implies that there's nothing to this movie and that it's aimed at the lowest common denominator (which, in case you weren't aware, apparently is you). movies like this (and the idiots that pay to go see them) are the reason good movies are fewer and farther between while this garbage is repeatedly thrown at us because they know people will watch anything with a couple big name actors as long as things go boom


cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@Spencer60 

 denzel is an actor. actor is a profession. the point of having a profession is to make money. what's your point?

mallbeatz
mallbeatz

@Spencer60 you're joking right? A who doesn't want money? B he's Denzel freaking Washington. So tired of these losers calling good people sellouts

Mr.357
Mr.357

@Spencer60 Doubtful, he was nominated for an oscar in the film FLIGHT.

bigbudd
bigbudd

@Spencer60 nothing wrong with going for the money. he's proved himself as an actor many times over.

wahoorob
wahoorob

@cjh2nd It's not damning to say that a movie doesn't require one to pay close attention in order to be enjoyable or "good." That's applicable to 2 Guns. Not only does it not suck...it's highly entertaining. Not great, mind you. But certainly good.

But if my opinion is reason enough for you to hurl insults at me, that's fine. I did use language that probably got your panties all in a twist and what-not. So fair's fair and all. Sure, sure...lowest common denominator, idiot, someone who will watch anything, blah, blah, blah...all these terms flow easily from your angry lips because YOU can only enjoy (use your deep voice here if you have one) S E R I O U S films. The lowly action flick, blockbuster or sequel is beneath you because you can't discuss it with the girls over chardonnay or lattes.

But just because I can appreciate a movie like 2 Guns for what it is doesn't mean I'm also not a fan of more profound or thoughtful films. In fact when my buddies and I take a break from shooting up defenseless animals on hunting trips we like to crack open a few cold ones and discuss questions like "What role does math play in relation to faith and free will in Pi?"

You're also dead wrong on good movies being fewer and farther between. Sure Hollywood's big studios are enamored with comic book movies, sequels, reboots and retreads to an absurd degree. But some of those actually work and there are plenty of good films in the cracks between the behemoths. Just this summer we've had Mud, The Way, Way Back, Fruitvale Station, Before Midnight, and Much Ado About Nothing. Of course we also had the woeful Frances Ha and another horrid Woody Allen offering in Blue Jasmine.

My point still is...don't send someone to a testosterone-loaded buddy-cop action flick who has a predilection for squishy indie films. They aren't able to weigh the differences that make 2 Guns superior to the grim Olympus Has Fallen, the pretty-boy-on-display White House Down or the dismal A Good Day to Die Hard. 

Not that women can't appreciate or parse the difference in these movies. They clearly can. Claudia Puig and Staci Wilson come to mind.

Just not THIS woman.

And clearly not you. Oh...wait...you haven't seen 2 Guns yet, have you?