Aah, the tried and trusted buddy action comedy, a staple of the summer blockbuster season. Throw in a pair of mismatched and flawed heroes, pit them against a scenery chewing bad guy and a host of plot twisting complications, be sure to add car chases, shootouts, explosions, witty dialogue and gratuitous nudity and voila- a guaranteed box office hit. But with so many classic examples of the genre having done just that, it takes something truly fresh to stand out. Unfortunately 2 Guns misses more targets than it hits.
After spending many years deep undercover infiltrating a cartel run by hardened drug kingpin Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos – Blade Runner), DEA agent Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington – Training Day) has got close to wayward, unpredictable hoodlum Michael “Stig” Stigman (Mark Wahlberg – The Departed) and agrees to help him rob a bank where a few million of Greco’s ill-gotten gains are held, with the intention of the authorities jumping in at the last minute. Instead, no one shows up to stop them, they get away with a haul a lot bigger than they intended, Stig shoots Bobby and runs away with the loot.
It soon transpires that Stigman is in fact also undercover, a naval intelligence officer, whose superiors have their own intentions for the money, setting up Stigman and Trench in the process.
To complicate matters further, the hoard in fact belongs to corrupt CIA agent Earl (Bill Paxton – Aliens) and he’ll do anything he can to get it back. With no one left to trust, Trench must grudgingly team up with Stigman, find the cash, beat the bad guys and clear his name.
All the elements are in place for a classic table turning buddy thriller- dodgy small towns, dusty roads and a cast of stalwarts who know how to play their roles blindfolded. Unfortunately, it seems that those who came up with this idea wore their blindfolds throughout the production.
Washington fills the shoes of the straight guy perfectly but Wahlberg plays his bumbling shtick so garishly (not just because of his colour uncoordinated outfit) that the scenes between the two lack any fun with the punch lines regularly falling flat. At many points it feels that 2 Guns wants to be equally as gritty and witty as the classic Midnight Run but quite simply; Wahlberg is no Charles Grodin.
Director Baltasar Kormákur (Jar City, The Deep), having worked with Wahlberg previously on the superior and darker Contraband, seems to lose all control when it comes to something lighter in tone, despite the gunplay and conspiratorial shenanigans – the script based on relatively unknown graphic novel Boom! – neither the verbal interplay nor shooting sequences are novel or memorable. Quite simply, Kormákur is no Shane Black and it’s glaringly obvious.
The biggest insult is the waste of the supporting cast. Paula Patton does her best with what little she’s been given as Trench’s official partner and unofficial girlfriend, but her arc is as believable as her reason to pointlessly disrobe at one point in the action. Olmos, Paxton and the legendary Fred Ward (Remo: Unarmed And Dangerous, Tremors), who pops up as a naval Admiral all too briefly, just seem to be going through the motions with neither decent opportunities or dialogue to play with, especially in Olmos’s case depriving him of giving the bad guy the required villainy, which on paper would seem practically impossible.
2 Guns is still undemanding fun, but those expecting anything close to 48 Hours or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang will feel severely disappointed.