Washington and Wahlberg are the new Glover and Gibson in 2 Guns.
The most purely entertaining popcorn picture of the summer, director Baltasar Kormákur’s 2 Guns is first and foremost an exercise in star wattage. This cheerfully rotgut south-of-the-border caper is full of bloody double-crosses and left-field plot convolutions, carried off with devil-may-care élan by Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, who here conjure the best bickering buddy chemistry since Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. The studio should have scrapped the generic title and just called it Charisma: The Motion Picture.
Washington is an undercover DEA agent working with Wahlberg’s Navy Intelligence officer, trying to take down a Mexican drug lord played by the always great Edward James Olmos. Except neither of these dudes knows that the other is also a lawman, so the revelation of their day jobs complicates things somewhat, especially after a bust gone wrong ends with them accidentally ripping off a CIA slush fund for $42 million in cash.
Cut loose from their respective agencies, they’re stranded in Mexico and forced to rely on each other because everybody on both sides of the border is after their asses. Olmos pissing on his own hands before wielding a baseball bat might seem like trouble enough, but there’s also a sadistic CIA goon (Bill Paxton, channeling Joe Don Baker) playing Russian roulette with other people’s knee-caps and nether regions.
Packing the frame with references to the scummy ‘70s cinema of Sam Peckinpah and Don Siegel, Kormákur genuflects before the masters while his contagiously breezy tone owes more to the eminently rewatchable guysie-time banter of Midnight Run or The Rundown. It’s such a full-bore charm-slaught whenever Washington and Wahlberg are onscreen together, you end up resenting any scene they’re apart.
Outfitted in tacky shirts, gold teeth and the kind of fedoras only he can get away with, Washington lays down a rhythm track of rapid-fire self-infatuated rat-a-tat jive. He’s constantly being bellowed over by Wahlberg’s breathy, bull-in-a-china shop belligerence and puppy dog earnestness. And Marky Mark can really rock a Canadian tuxedo.
Based on a comic by Steven Grant (because apparently everything needs to be based on a comic book these days), 2 Guns is no great shakes in the story department, with a climax that screams: “Eh, fuck it—let’s just shoot everybody.” But attitude is everything. This is the kind of movie in which Fred Ward plays a Navy admiral, made so for the delight of people for whom that’s a big deal.