Review: 2 Guns

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: A rogue DEA agent (Denzel Washington) and an undercover Naval Intelligence officer (Mark Wahlberg) double cross each other after robbing a bank where a drug lord (Edward James Olmos) launders his money. Neither man knows the other is undercover. They both end up abandoned by their superiors, when they end up with $42 million from a secret slush fund. Now the two are being hunted not only by the drug lord and their crooked associates, but also a shadowy, sadistic enforcer (Bill Paxton) bent on recovering all the stolen cash.

REVIEW: 2 GUNS feels like a throwback to a kind of summer movie that’s been long-since abandoned. An unapologetically R-rated buddy-action flick, this is the kind of movie that would have felt natural coming from Joel Silver in the eighties and nineties, or the late Don Simpson, who in his heyday alongside partner Jerry Bruckheimer, produced high-concept Hollywood actioners like BEVERLY HILLS COP 1 & 2, BAD BOYS, and THE ROCK. Simpson would have loved 2 GUNS, especially the climatic shot of stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, back-to-back with guns blazing, being showered in cash against a flaming explosion (already immortalized at the movie’s poster).

Of course, Simpson’s been dead for seventeen years, and Bruckheimer’s not really in the action game any more (although Silver is still at it), as the genre seems to have fallen by the wayside at least as far as summer tent-poles go. Re-teaming Wahlberg with his CONTRABAND director Baltasar Kormakur, 2 GUNS satisfies an itch that so far hasn’t been scratched at all this summer, with this being one hundred minutes of non-stop double-crosses, gunfights, corny jokes, and even some Paula Patton nudity (woo-hoo!) being thrown in for good measure. You’d swear it was the eighties again.

There’s nothing about 2 GUNS that really breaks any new ground, but considering it’s the first big-screen team-up of tough guys Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington, the concept should be enough to bring in the duo’s sizable fanbase. Both guys seem to be having fun, with the two sharing an easygoing camaraderie that makes you believe they must have gotten along pretty well off-screen. Washington is still carrying a little of the weight he put on for FLIGHT, but despite being well in to his fifties, you’d still swear the guy was in his prime. Sporting a set of good-teeth, a soul-patch, and a cool hat, Denzel’s rogue DEA agent is a bit like a good guy version of his character from TRAINING DAY. Whether romancing Patton, who plays his handler (who wouldn’t want to be “handled” by her?) and going hand-to-hand or gun-to-gun with any number of goons and baddies, Washington is at his best, even if the action-thriller has more-or-less become his default genre over the years.

Ditto Mark Wahlberg, who more than any other legit leading man, seems bent on bringing back the R-rated actioner to cinemas. As the wiseguy half of the duo (the Cash to Denzel’s Tango), Wahlberg gets to meld the comic chops he’s shown off in movies like THE OTHER GUYS and TED into a nice union with the tough-guy parts he’s played in movies like CONTRABAND and SHOOTER. While he (at times) takes a bit of a backseat to Washington, his character here seems tailor-made.

Of course, every good action flick needs a decent baddie, and 2 GUNS has (count ’em) three, with our two heroes getting an antagonist each, and sharing a third. Wahlberg’s baddie is a buffed-up James Marsden, who plays his crooked NCIS superior, while Washington squares off with a scene-stealing Bill Paxton, as the shadowy government-connected enforcer the two inadvertently rob with the big bank heist at the beginning of the film. The third, and arguably the main baddie is the drug lord played by Edward James Olmos- who gets to chew a little scenery (in contrast to his stoic turn as Adama on the late, great BATTLESTAR GALACTICA).

The only real downside to 2 GUNS is that the plot is often unnecessarily convoluted, and director Kormakur, who bring a lighter touch to this than he did the solemn CONTRABAND, goes a little over-the-top with slow-motion “walking away from explosions” shots and cool guy posing by the two heroes. A little restraint would have gone a long way, but then again, the eighties and early nineties actioners it pays homage to weren’t restrained either, and the cheese factor is far from fatal.

Certainly, 2 GUNS isn’t any kind of masterpiece, nor is it a particularly revolutionary action flick. It’s strictly by-the-numbers, but I don’t mean that as a criticism. Every once in a while, a good R-rated action flick aimed squarely at older audiences feels refreshing. If you want a break from PG-13 tent-poles, and are jonesing for some grittier, r-rated thrills, 2 GUNS should be right up your alley.

2 Guns



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.