Review by Jeff Ames
There are cool movies, and then there are movies that try to be cool. “2 Guns” falls into the latter category chiefly because it doesn’t know what the term “cool” really means.
The film stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg as Bobby and Stig, undercover officers — the former a DEA agent, the latter a naval intelligence officer — working the same drug beat. The gag is that neither knows the other is playing for the other side.
Doesn’t that make them more stupid than cool?
Not according to director Baltasar Kormákur, who, along with writers Blake Masters and Steven Grant, wants us to believe Bobby and Stig are cool because they a) wink at the ladies b) know that coffee houses with the best doughnuts attract the most cops c) remain calm during adverse situations, such as when a Mexican drug dealer hangs them upside down over an angry bull (though they cringe at the site of a man pissing on a knife moments later) d) bicker like 10-year old boys and e) make fun of fat Hispanic kids.
Actually, they sound like a couple of ********.
Washington and Wahlberg know how to strut their stuff (witness “Inside Man” and “The Departed”). But being cool requires more than just steely glances, and coordinated walking styles.
A good example of cool lies in Steven Soderberghs “Ocean’s Eleven.” In that film, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon (among others) stroll the Vegas Strip, stand toe-to-toe with greasy mobsters, and then pull off an implausible theft without breaking a sweat. No one had to tell us they were cool. Their actions did the talking.
“2 Guns” opts for the reverse, but gives us no one to actually care about. Bobby is a moping jack hole who spends his nights in seedy hotel rooms getting it on with fellow officer Deb (a hilariously bad Paula Patton). Stig spends most of the movie flirting with girls and talking tough, but never actually gets laid, and gets his *** beat quite a bit.
The coolest thing either of them does is shoot off a couple of chicken heads, an action more callous than cool since the chickens were in fact victims.
More problems arise with the plot, which takes far too long to kick into gear and requires multiple flashbacks, flashbacks within flashbacks, and lots of exposition about flashbacks to work.
After a prolonged first act, we learn Bobby’s mission was to secure enough evidence to bust drug kingpin Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). That plan fails, and so Bobby convinces Stig to rob a local bank filled with Papi’s drug money.
Events spiral out of control when the bank robbery awards a larger-than-expected sum of money — in excess of $43 million — leading the two undercover partners to sort out their differences and work together to stay alive.
Of course, nearly an hour goes by before “2 Guns” settles into its buddy-cop narrative, or the meet of the story. When the good parts do arrive — or those featuring the oddball matchup between Washington and Wahlberg, as promised in the heavy marketing campaign — too much time has gone by to give a ****.
In the end I was left with a lot of questions. Would the military really allow someone who had just destroyed one of its buildings (in a blatant act of terrorism) walk less than 24 hours later? Wouldn’t an officer sporting a goatee draw suspicious glances? Why did Papi pee on his hands? What the **** is Bill Paxton doing in this movie?
Watching “2 Guns,” I was reminded of the 1999 film “Payback” where Mel Gibson played a hit man seeking revenge against those that left him for dead. That film likewise struggled to balance an edgy tone with moments of humor (“Cat got your crotch?”), leading to a wholly unsatisfying, jarring production.
“2 Guns” makes all the same mistakes. It wants to be funny, hip, exciting, grim, dramatic, offensive, shocking, sexy, violent, laid back and action-packed all at once. And, in truth, there are moments when it succeeds — such as when Bobby and Stig interrogate a bad guy in a garage — but mostly it feels like an unbalanced mess.
And that, my friends, is not cool.
Note: Wahlberg originally wanted his “Three Kings” and “The Fighter” director David O. Russell to direct. I can only imagine what a blazingly entertaining film might’ve emerged in Russell’s hands.
The "2 Guns" trailer is official property of Universal Pictures and is used for advertising purposes only.