When low-level criminal Bobby Beans (Denzel Washington) and mysterious muscle Stig (Mark Wahlberg) team up to knock over a bank, both of them think they have the upper hand: Bobby Beans is actually Bobby Trench, a D.E.A. agent looking to bust local crime lord Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos), and Stig is actually Michael Stigman, a disgraced naval intelligence officer who's trying to get reinstated by sucking up to his slimy superior, Quince (James Marsden). The unveiling of both secret identities coincides with a storm of consequences unleashed by the bank robbery: the two kidnap Papi Greco, getting his men on their tail, while a mysterious gunman in a cowboy hat (Bill Paxton) frames Bobby for the murder of his boss. Bobby's sideline flame and fellow D.E.A. agent Deb (Paula Patton) is also swept up on the chaos as the two men try to figure out a way out of their situation that plays all the angles.
In a summer of dreary blockbusters, the trailers for 2 Guns suggested a relievingly upbeat piece of buddy-comedy action. The pairing of Denzel and Wahlberg has promise, an R-rating allows for a streak of mean-spiritedness missing from PG-13 team-ups, and the action seemed competent in snippets. Sadly, the finished film sticks with its contemporaries by unleashing an overly convoluted series of double and triple-crosses quickly overwhelms the picture in familiarity. Denzel is good and Wahlberg is great, and the character actors add plenty of scenery-chewing flair, but that's really all the movie has in its tank, stumbling on action and wit.
Of all the film's limitations, it's the murky action that hurts it the most. 2 Guns reteams Wahlberg with Contraband director Baltasar Kormakur, and while there are some fun, simple bits of non-action that Kormakur handles nicely (like a scene in a garage with a motion-activated lightbulb, or a moment where he catches the reflection of Bobby exiting a hotel in a set of closing elevator doors), the film is mostly made up of uninteresting shoot-outs that are both hard to follow and basically uninspired. Low point: Bobby goes to Stig's apartment to find him, but is trapped inside when men show up to kill Stig. Stig is on the roof of the building across the street with a sniper rifle, and his plan to guide Bobby through the apartment could be fun, but the geography is poor and the lighting is awful, killing the sequence before it begins.
Plot-wise, 2 Guns isn't hard to understand or confusing, it's just that the convolutions of the story aren't necessary. The key to all good humor is context and clarity, so it would be in 2 Guns' best interest to lay all of the details on the table and play them for humor rather than unraveling them as legitimate suspense. Doing so would not only help trim 10 or 15 minutes of fat out of the film (doesn't anyone make 90-minute movies anymore?), but it also could've provided Paula Patton with an actual character to play. Instead, the actress is stuck with another "girlfriend" role in a male-centric summer blockbuster that exists solely to motivate and manipulate other characters, like the ball in a shell game.
Everyone else in the cast gets to have a ball, and it's 2 Guns one positive trait, lifting the movie from a waste of time to a late-night TV pick. Bill Paxton takes his character, a stock cold-blooded madman who likes to play Russian roulette with the people he's interrogating, and really gives the role some personality by injecting some down-home charm, milking each of his lines for every last drop of sinister amusement. Olmos does the same, but plays Papi as more goofy, possibly by necessity, as the character spends more time with Bobby and Stig. Denzel is his usual self, which is generally pleasurable, but Wahlberg's comic energy really brings their partnership together. It takes a special brand of action star to remain likable after shooting the heads off some innocent chickens, but Wahlberg's childlike enthusiasm is infectious. Still, even the upsides of 2 Guns highlight its weaknesses: the filmmakers have a comic book as source material, a decent budget, a time-tested genre, and a capable cast, and yet the finished film only kinda skates by on chemistry.
2 Guns arrives on home video with the fairly generic poster art on the front, and angled squares on the back. Perhaps it's an allusion to the comic book. The combo pack release comes in an eco-friendly 2-disc Blu-Ray case with the UltraViolet digital copy code and DVD copy inside, and the whole package slides into an embossed cardboard slipcover with identical artwork on the front and "clean" artwork on the back.
The Video and Audio
2 Guns was actually shot on 35mm, increasingly a rarity for Hollywood productions. This 2.39:1 1080p AVC presentation recreates the film's natural-looking photography with ease. I have repeatedly bemoaned aggressively stylized color timing, and so it's really refreshing to look at some of the surprisingly gorgeous desert vistas on display here, which are all vividly and accurately saturated with browns and reds, occasionally against the purple hue of sunset. A fine layer of film grain rests over the picture, which is filled with detail, but not so razor-sharp as to be sterile and lifeless. Likewise, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is extremely memorable, with each of the film's many action sequences, from the conventional (gunfights, car chases) to the unconventional (a man trapped in the a debris-filled truck bed, a herd of stampeding cattle) rendered with exceptionally immersive clarity. Explosions will rattle the windows with bass and vibrancy. On a technical level, 2 Guns is reference quality. Spanish and French DTS 5.1, Dolby 2.0 Descriptive Video audio, English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and French and Spanish subtitles are also provided.
The primary video extra on the disc, however, is actually a single making-of documentary titled "Click, Click, Bang, Bang: The Making of 2 Guns" (30:18, HD), consisting of four parts ("Undercover and Into Action" - 6:03, "The Good, The Bad, and The Sexy" - 8:07, "Finding the Vibe" - 7:19, and "Living Dangerously - 8:59). Modern behind-the-scenes features are so slickly produced and formulaic, plus I wasn't in love with the movie, but this has a casual tone to it that turns it into a surprisingly breezy half-hour, full of funny B-roll and unusually relaxed on-set interviews. Sure, there a few canned comments, and a couple bits where the participants get sidetracked explaining the characters or the plot (mainly in the second piece), but 90% of this is a cut above for studio material -- as it was wrapping up, I actually wished it were a little longer.
The small but sweet supplement package for 2 Guns kicks off with 8 deleted and extended scenes (11:50, HD). All of these trims are in keeping with the comic tone of the rest of the film (Greco cracking jokes while beating Bobby with a phone book, further Bobby and Stig bantering during the apartment shootout, etc.), although none of them are particularly essential.
The disc finishes off with an audio commentary by director Baltur Kormakur and producer Adam Siegel. Siegel really drives the track, aggressively switching the conversation from topic to topic, while Kormakur's recollections and comments are more casual. The pair primarily discuss technical details about the sets and locations, or their ideas behind the motivation of characters or the story. Far from essential, but at least the participants are talkative.
2 Guns ought to be better, but it's got its moments. The cast is a real selling point here, and fans of Olmos and Paxton in particular may want to give the film a spin just to see them having a ball. Furthermore, the A/V specs on this Blu-Ray are perfect, and one of the supplemental features is surprisingly great as well -- it's actually one of the rare Blu-Rays that's good enough to get me to raise a "rent it" film to a recommended Blu-Ray rating.