Good chemistry can wash away so many movie sins. No one loves Lethal Weapon because of the criminal plot Riggs and Murtaugh crack in the film. We love it because Mel Gibson and Danny Glover make such a great team. The best scenes in that movie (save for Riggs' front yard brawl with Mr. Joshua) all involve Riggs interacting with Murtaugh and his family. I could watch that shit for four movies and have multiple times.
The good news about 2 Guns is that Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington somehow pull off this kind of chemistry together. What seems like a pairing thrown together by whoever's schedule had an opening at the time ends up offering one of the best action duos of the summer.
The bad news is that 2 Guns' script throws them into an overly complicated plot that seems almost eager to split them apart at every opportunity. You sometimes hear about actors who come in for just a line yet own their role so thoroughly that their director ends up expanding their part. Had something like that happened here, we'd be looking at a serious summer highlight. Instead, 2 Guns is an okay film that only offers very occasional greatness.
We all know Mark Wahlberg contains a great capacity for comedy. Usually this comes out either through infantile anger or infantile cheeriness. 2 Guns goes for the latter. As undercover Navy Intelligence Officer Stig Stigman, Walhberg is all dumb charm and enthusiasm. On the other hand, we all know Denzel Washington is a quick-witted badass. You've seen the trailers. You know what a goofy hat he wears in this film. He totally owns that shit. As the staunch but not stuck-up or humorless professional, Washington's Bobby Trench offers a perfect counterpoint to Walhberg's indomitable happiness and loyalty. Together they are a blast.
The film's premise is that Stigman and Trench are teammates, but only because both are undercover law officers who believe the other is a criminal. Together they rob a bank they think will be filled with Edward James Olmos' $3 million in drug money but are surprised to find Crazy Bill Paxton's $30-something million in CIA money instead. So those people want to kill them. Not only that, but it turns out each has someone in their organization who secretly put them up to the robbery for nefarious reasons.
If you're not counting, that means the film has four bad guys. The fact that they are all pretty fun to watch (especially Paxton) does not forgive the unnecessary complications their participation brings. Stigman and Trench's individual plots play like separate mini movies we must sit through to arrive at the good stuff. 2 Guns does manage to bring everyone together in a highly satisfying plot blender for its big action climax, but I'd easily prefer a bad ending if it meant more Washington-Walhberg action.
The film works best as a comedy, but the action is pretty good, too. Director Baltasar Kormakur sticks to the basics and doesn't pull off any real show-stopping moments, but you can at least see and understand what's going on. Such competency is often too much to ask lately. This film gets its R-rating from language and boobies (I love you Paula Patton), probably not for the violence.
Conceptually and in execution, 2 Guns is little more than a DTV film that somehow made it onto the big screen, except a good DTV entry would have the good sense to keep things simple and play to its strengths. I hate to give the impression that I didn't like the film. It's really fun - sometimes super fun - and its down to Earth stakes offer a refreshing break from the comic book summer we just endured. The ending leaves things open for a sequel that I would very much love to see. But it shoots itself in the foot too many times to recommend as the minor action classic it could have been.