2 Guns is another film that subjects itself to an admittedly self-acquired action movie theorem; whether or not an action film can be any good while realizing that large chunks of it are hardly believable or realistic. If those making the movie are aware of what it is that they are making, does that self-awareness carry through to the final product? Or to put it another way, if you are in a relationship, is it better for honesty about the other person, or do you want to get strung along until the lie comes? In a way, that is the larger sense of what 2 Guns is or wants to be, the serious or realistically façade or the one that says "hey, you know who is in the movie and that you should not burn muscle mass while trying to break it down, so why not enjoy it?"
Blake Masters (Brotherhood) adapted the Steven Grant graphic novels into a screenplay that Baltasar Kormakur (Contraband) directed. The 2 Guns in the film are mainly held by Bobby (Denzel Washington, Safe House) and Stig (Mark Wahlberg, Max Payne), who are working together to steal money from a bank, a challenging task as one is an undercover DEA agent and the other is an undercover Naval officer, and neither knows the other's true identity. Once the money is stolen they begin to have suspicions about one another, and when they find out just who the money was taken from, they realize the only way to stay alive may be to start working with one another.
Starting from the jump of 2 Guns, where Bobby and Stig are in a diner across the street from the bank, the chemistry between the two is easy to see and fun to watch. Stig is very chatty, somewhat flirtatious and provides some vitality to the pair in a too upbeat for his own good kind of way. In a sense it is as if Wahlberg is playing a coked-out Dirk Diggler for large chunks of the film (or doing an Andy Samberg impression of Mark Wahlberg), but falls back on his gunplay skills when he needs to. And he does it a lot, if the more muscular than usual appearance gives things away. As far as Bobby goes, as the older part of the partnership he has seen more and done more than Stig has, but the life as an undercover agent seems to give him the chance of avoiding responsibility in the ‘real world.' Bobby seems like a guy who has burned one marriage already, and is currently dealing with the strains of a relationship to another DEA agent, an attractive one named Deb (Paula Patton, Disconnect). Over the course of the film Bobby's ties to Deb are the closest semblance of emotional significance in the movie and when they occur they actually are not too bad.
Above all else, the movie is full of a mix of snappy lines, crazy stunts and a joke or two, much in the fabric of similar movies like True Romance or wrapping both arms around implausibility like Shoot ‘Em Up. There are a couple of villains that appear through 2 Guns, the more dominant one being the older Papi (Edward James Olmos, The Green Hornet). A Mexican weapons dealer, the guy has broken enough kneecaps and had enough men killed for you to appreciate how menacing he is. A slightly more mysterious man is Earl (Bill Paxton, Big Love), with a Southern drawl and a hat to match, who wants to know where the money is and when he is going to get it back.
The smart and often times entertaining casting is nice, but the movie ultimately has to fall back on just how much the viewer gets on board with the ride that Wahlberg and Washington are trying to sell, and the charisma is such that this task is remarkably easy. Rather than play the characters seriously without a hint of irony, they do it with tongue planted in cheek, showing the audience that they are in on the joke too and thus knocking down any remaining pretense early in the movie. The diner scene sets that up beautifully and in a clever way is the most important sequence of the film. If the audience does not go along with the ride at that point, they will likely not be able to catch up to that point. Washington's performance is a welcome change of pace for the film and as for Wahlberg, this was one of the more engaging works of his in my recent memory.
By no means is 2 Guns trying to reinvent the wheel on the action movie car. In fact, all Washington and Wahlberg are doing is putting a fancy rim on it and inviting you to stand next to them while they put in on themselves. The self-awareness of the shallowness of the material from the cast is apparent early in the film and despite a pacing groan here and there, it is a decent movie where belief suspension is checked early in the first act and the trip is entertaining to take.
Universal presents 2 Guns with an AVC-encoded 2.40:1 widescreen transfer that looks amazing. Image detail early on in the diner sequence is abundant in the facial pores among the stars, and background detail is just as plentiful and looks great with wood and fabric grain being easily discernible. In more intimate shots, film grain is present during viewing, and the color palette is reproduced faithfully with nary a hint of DNR to speak of. Additionally the disc juggles the practically shot effects and the computer generated ones about as well as can be expected, which is to say rather adroitly.
Equally amazing is the DTS-HD MA lossless 5.1 surround track which impresses. Starting with the quieter moments, dialogue is well-balanced and consistent in the front of the theater. As was the case with the diner sequence, things go from conversational noise to directional effects and channel panning, to subwoofer involvement when the diner blows up almost immediately. The soundtrack includes directional effects and panning rather well (a scene when Wahlberg and Washington being chased on a Navy base shows the full range of what the disc does), and the film balances dialogue and gunfire nicely and without complaint. Technically, the disc delivers.
Kormakur and producer Adam Siegel join up for a commentary that is decent, albeit slightly bland. Siegel is the one that drives the track between the two, with a block of information on the production before he handed off to Kormakur, who may have been less comfortable with speaking English. They cover the various locations, set construction and casting intent, and the chemistry between the stars. They touch on things like particular production issues or shot intent and while it may not be the most informative track, is decent nonetheless. Next is "Click Click Bang Bang," a four-part examination/making of about the film (30:18) that hoes some of the same ground the commentary does, but includes interviews with the cast about the film and the characters they portray. Some more production-centric aspects like the set, wardrobe and weapons are given attention in this as well. Eight deleted and/or extended scenes follow (11:50) and short of a strange "Take Your Son to Work Day" scene, nothing is very notable. A standard definition disc and codes for iTunes/Ultraviolet close things out.
2 Guns is fun viewing even for those who are even not that big of an admirer of either Washington and Wahlberg, but the fact that they are able to sell the material as they do helps make for a good mix of humor, creative driving and shooting and stunts that gradually build in bombast to a climax that feels right within the framework that the film sets up. Combined with a cast that helps complement the stars and a disc that delivers on the technical goods, this film may be one that folks watch a couple of times for the sake of enjoyment alone, as they should.