"Never rob a bank across from a diner that has the best doughnuts in town.”
Those are the ironic words uttered by Denzel Washington’s gold-toothed persona in the opening scene of 2 Guns before he and his co-star Mark Wahlberg do just that. It’s also not the best idea to open a buddy cop film the week after a Marvel Comics sequel (The Wolverine) premieres, but 2 Guns is throwing caution to the wind and letting it ride.
The movie has many strengths, but the chemistry between its two A-List co-stars is the muscle tugging their buddy-cop vehicle along. 2 Guns marks Washington’s immigrating over the dramatic border into Wahlberg’s territory in one of the most jocular roles of his career.
During his press tour, Washington quipped that he attended Lamaze classes with Wahlberg to create the camaraderie they exhibited on screen, and the result was them birthing a gem. Conversely, Bill Paxton’s portrayal of an archetypical government, spoken with a Louisiana drawl, creates a perfect foil for 2 Guns’ tag team. At the core of its DNA, it’s a shoot-‘em-up action-comedy but it also includes more twists and turns than a double-helix. The plot avoids plodding along and unravels at a solid pace instead of all at once.
Discovering new takes on the old buddy-cop genre is a difficult task, however, 2 Guns is proof you can teach an old dog new tricks. Blake Masters’ screenplay takes an effective stab at the genre without borrowing the marrow from other prominent takes which relied on ethnic humor (Rush Hour), grumpy old man/young whippersnapper partners (Men In Black/Lethal Weapon) or cop and convict (48 Hours) themes that have been done before. 2 Guns is a departure from Washington's last buddy cop film with he and Ethan Hawke in Training Day.
Not to be confused with 1988’s New Mexico-based old western Young Guns, 2 Guns meshes a realistic new-western vibe, gunfights, and witty comedy that drives a plot which delves into the government’s involvement with the Drug War in Mexico.
Washington plays Bobby Trench, a grizzled fedora-wearing DEA agent who’s spent too long undercover as a goon for Papi Greco’s (Edward James Olmos) Mexican drug cartel. Trench is paired with Marcus Stigman (Wahlberg) a cocky, trigger-happy undercover Navy Inspector. Wahlberg is again cast as a silver-tongued sharpshooter, but neither undercover agent is aware of the other’s double identity until the heist is complete. 2 Guns’ trailers gives the main plot away, but the dilemma of two dudes playing a dude, disguised as another could have been taken advantage of a little more is just the setup.
Their planned heist serves as the catalyst for the misadventures that ensue along the Mexican border, when they find $43 million in the vault they plunder instead of $3 million they expected.
This film oozes machismo, but if you’re searching for over-the-top action, you won’t find it here. Trench’s handler, Deb (Paula Patton) is a complex character involved in a complicated relationship that plays a stereotypical role, but as the only female character given any notable screen time, she does her thing in limited screen time.
In the third act, Washington sheds the levity and shifts into Man on Fire mode. All in all, 2 Guns is brilliantly written, immaculately casted, multi-layered and surpassed my expectations for an action-packed hour and a half. It’s not quite as poignant as Fruitvale Station, but 2 Guns moonlights as commentary on illegal immigration and the drug war. I’d recommend seeing it, unless you’re Eric Holder.