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Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013 04:12 pm

Ludicrous 2 Guns a fun exercise for its two stars

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Mark Wahlberg as Stig and Denzel Washington as Bobby in 2 Guns.
PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSAL PICTURES

While taking in Baltasar Kormakur’s action epic, 2 Guns, I was waiting for a kitchen sink to be thrown in at some point during the bloody proceedings. After all, here’s a movie that makes sure to include every trope of the genre. Double-crosses, shootouts, explosions, dirty federal officers, a Mexican drug cartel, wisecracks and a twist-ending litter the bullet-strewn landscape, along with a spectacular helicopter crash and a mini cattle stampede. Ironically, what isn’t present is chemistry between its two stars – Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg – who try mightily to click as the pair of mismatched, on-the-run partners. These two veterans hit their marks and deliver their lines with conviction but they’re just a little off from clicking. And yet somehow, the film works despite this. It’s propelled by a sense of ridiculous fun that hearkens back to the best of the Lethal Weapon features.

The movie begins in inspired fashion as Trench (Washington) and Stigman (Wahlberg) appear to be partners in crime, casing a bank they intend to knock off the next day. Their intent is to steal $3 million belonging to Mexican drug lord Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). The job goes off without a hitch but the duo ends up with far more than they bargained for. Not only do they get away with $43 million and change but they find out that neither is who they claim to be. Trench is a DEA agent out to get Greco on tax evasion while Stigman is a Naval petty officer following the orders of his superior (James Marsden) to steal this money so that it can be used in the war on drugs. These revelations turn both men’s plans upside down but not as much as when they each find out that they’ve been double-crossed by their bosses and they’re on their own to clear their names.

That the screenplay by Blake Masters has a bloody comic book sensibility to it should come as no surprise. The film is based on a series of graphic novels by Steven Grant. Credit Kormakur for not only keeping the movie clicking at a breakneck pace but more importantly, sustaining a comedic tone amidst the bloodshed that prevents us from taking any of this too seriously. There’s violence aplenty but none of it’s gratuitous or over-the-top, effectively skirting the line between parody and realism. This is the sort of film Walter Hill (48 Hours, The Warriors) would have made in his heyday, as it is an efficient exercise short on logic but rife with crowd-pleasing moments.

It comes as no surprise that Washington and Wahlberg deliver. They have become two of our most reliable film actors. As I say, they don’t really click as a duo but individually they’re fun to watch. It’s obvious that Washington is quite confident in his screen persona. He willingly cedes the movie to his younger costar throughout. Wahlberg is given every comedic line in the film and seems to be channeling a young Burt Reynolds as he wears a sense of boyish charm as comfortably as a pair of old tennis shoes. Whether it’s working over a bad guy or the ever-present piece of chewing gum he’s gnawing or flirting with every attractive woman that crosses his path, the actor dominates the screen. He’s obviously having a good time here and with his infectious sense of fun, he persuades us to check our brains at the door, grab a big bucket of popcorn and just sit back and have a good time.

By the time the film’s climax rolls around, what with all the major players present including a crooked CIA agent played by Bill Paxton, logic has been terminated. We’re past caring. With the film’s darkly comedic tone firmly in place, there’s never any danger that our two anti-heroes won’t walk away with nary a scratch on them. And I was fine with that. The movie begs for a sequel, if for no other reason than to see if Washington and Wahlberg can get that chemistry thing right.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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