Baltasar Kormakur’s irreverent actioner 2 Guns needs only a Harold Faltermeyer score to complete its goal of becoming this generation’s Tango & Cash. Faltermeyer, as you likely know, is a German composer whose synth-pop grooves lent mood and color to seminal ‘80s police comedies like Beverly Hills Cop, Fletch and Cash. 2 Guns may not have the electric-cool music of that decade’s celebrated genre, but it retains all the other crucial pieces that made these films such entertaining rides.
Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington have bolstered their lengthy acting careers salvaging throwaway genre exercises – see Four Brothers or Out of Time for B-grade examples of their paycheck-collecting work – so I’m genuinely shocked that it took so long for someone to pair them up. Maybe the duo was waiting for a filmmaker like Kormakur (Jar City, Wahlberg’s own Contraband), an Icelandic director with a precise understanding of the yin-yang pull that’s supposed to drive the buddy-cop formula
The audience doesn’t know, initially, that partners-in-crime Bobby Trench (Washington) and Michael “Stig” Stigman (Wahlberg) are actually undercover law-enforcement agents working a large case from different angles. Kormakur and screenwriter Blake Masters hold a full deck of cards close to their vest, choosing when and where to parcel out information. Here’s what I think I can tell you without spoiling the experience of watching 2 Guns unfold. Trench and Stig break into a small-town bank believing they’ll steal $3 million belonging to their primary target: Noted drug smuggler Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). Instead, they find a $43 million slush fund belonging to … well, that I can’t tell you. But Trench and Stig eventually must team up to uncover who has framed them, before it costs them their lives.
Masters adapts 2 Guns from an underground graphic novel, but he’s also borrowing heavily from Shane Black’s unofficial guide to sarcastic pairings on the silver screen. Washington and Wahlberg demonstrate a combustible chemistry, the latter realizing once again just how comfortable he can be in the fast-talking, authority-questioning, renegade role. Employing the Tango & Cash comparison once again, Wahlberg handles the Kurt Russell side of the equation. He’s a scream, and the duo together are the valuable glue that often holds 2 Guns together at its rough seams.
But Guns, thankfully, doesn’t sag when its leads are out of the picture, primarily because Kormakur sagely populates his stock supporting roles with seasoned character actors hungry for scenery to chew. Olmos plays Greco as a weather-beaten Mexican kingpin who has seen it all, and has now grown tired of the ever-changing rules of the game. James Marsden and Paula Patton deliver expected plot twists as inside agents who may or may not be helping Trench and Stig at different stages.
Bill Paxton, however, feels like he has stepped into 2 Guns from another movie altogether … as Bill Paxton often does. His character’s true identity must be protected. His performance, on the other hand, must be celebrated. Every line uttered by the oily scene-stealer is quotable gold. Who needs a streamlined narrative when you’ve got a sinister Paxton playing Russian roulette with a hand cannon pointing at Washington’s crotch?
2 Guns doesn’t reinvent the wheel. The blue-collar thriller merely grabs its lunch pail, puts its head down, and hammers away at a basic, satisfying meat-and-potatoes script that weaves just enough offbeat humor into the mix to keep audiences guessing. Ostentatious camera tricks and multiple timeline skips are unnecessary when you have bone-crunching car chases, sloppy fist fights and a shootout staged in the middle of an unexpected stampede. Yep, 2 Guns now serves as “Exhibit A” when belly-aching moviegoers lob the incorrect accusation that Hollywood “just doesn’t’ make them like they used to.”