The buddy comedic action/thriller has become a staple of American cinema. Two characters that seem poles apart (played by actors one wouldn’t normally mention in the same breath) work together, either solving or perpetrating a crime. In its best versions, like 48 Hours or the Lethal Weapon series, it can be magical. When done poorly, though, it shows how hackneyed a concept it has become. Thanks to an excellent cast, a fresh script and good directing, 2 Guns is an example of the good side.
Undercover DEA agent Robert “Bobby” Trench (Denzel Washington) is working a deal with Mexican drug lord Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). Bobby has recruited a low-level gunman, Michael “Stig” Stigman (Mark Walberg), to assist him, unaware that Stig is in Naval Intelligence and is also investigating Greco. When Greco changes the deal, Bobby asks permission from his handlers Jessup (Robert John Burke) and Deb (Paula Patton) to go after a safe deposit box that Greco has in a small bank in a small California desert town. Stig has been ordered by his superior Quince (James Marsden) to get into the box as well.
Bobby and Stig plan to hit all the safe deposit boxes, to cover up the interest in Greco’s, and then have Deb and the police catch them. Since the contents of Greco’s box were recovered after a robbery, the authorities could use whatever they find in an investigation. While the robbery is a success, things don’t go as planned, and then the double- and triple-crosses start happening.
The script by Blake Masters, based on a graphic novel by Steven Grant, has more twists and turns than an Olympic figure skating competition. Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur worked with Walberg before on Contraband, and he handles both the action and the banter between Washington and Walberg equally well.
Walberg is a highly effective actor considering his rapper/model background. He proved that at the start of his career, as the psycho teen stalker in Fear, as well as in the recent Oscar contender The Fighter. With his action movies, he’s tended to be a bit predictable in his performance, but Washington draws him up to the consistently high level he’s shown even in standard movies like Unstoppable and Safe House, along with his Oscar-worthy performance in Flight. Their scenes together are like a bowl of Rice Krispies – plenty of snap, crackle and pop.
The supporting cast is first-rate in their roles, especially Bill Paxton as Earl, the quietly homicidal representative of the owner of the robbed bank. There’s also nice comedic relief provided by character actor Patrick Fischler as Dr. Ken.
This is escapist fare, but it is done well enough to qualify as a gourmet dessert. Taken in moderation, such sweets are a pleasant treat.