Two fine lead actors plus lots of action makes ‘2 Guns’ slick and stylish but empty fun

August 10, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 10, 2013

The Denzel Washington-Mark Wahlberg vehicle 2 Guns is a slick and stylish but vapid entertainment.

The movie, set alongside the U.S.-Mexico border, features its starring pair as Bobby Bean and Michael Stigman, handsome and dynamic crooks who have an in with the drug cartel run by Big Papi Greco. Bean (Washington) turns out to have more than a few secrets, the least of which is that his real name is Robert Trench. But Stigman has a secret or two of his own — as do all of the organizations with which he, Trench and Greco are connected.

2 Guns’ plot kicks into high gear when Trench and Stigman rob a small-town bank patronized by Greco. Expecting to come away with $3 million in drug cash, the men instead haul away an extra $40 million. That caper makes the two men into targets; they’re hunted not only by the enraged Greco but by an unexpected collection of players both known and unknown.

Naturally, the film features plenty of well-staged car chases, fisticuffs and gun fights, although the climactic battle isn’t quite as fresh (or as clearly executed) as preceding action set pieces. There’s also a plot that’s just twisty enough to contain a few entertaining surprises but not twisty enough to be unnecessarily confusing.

The great failing of 2 Guns is that its characters are paper-thin. The actors turn in engaging performances, especially Washington, but that’s not enough to disguise the fact that the folks in the movie aren’t so much people as plot devices. Stigman is particularly perplexing; he seems surprisingly naïve for most of the running time, but he turns out to have enough means and foresight to stash a massive rainy-day arsenal.

The film’s gender politics are also frustrating. There’s one female character of note: Paula Patton’s Deb, a Drug Enforcement Agency officer. Leaving her aside, a viewer can count the lines spoken by women in 2 Guns using only her fingers.

It somehow wasn’t that surprising to learn that this Baltasar Kormákur-directed movie was based on a graphic novel; Steven Grant created the source material, which Blake Masters adopted for the screen.

In terms of entertainment value, 2 Guns is like a jawbreaker: Full of flavor and fun. Unfortunately, in terms of high art, it’s packed with as much nutritionally worthless sugar as that very same jawbreaker.

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