August 2, 2013



2 GUNS:  Watch It At Home – Mindless Movie Action, The Old-Fashioned Way

In this endless CG demo reel of a summer, the old-time, human-scaled mayhem of 2 GUNS is downright charming.  The idea of an action movie substituting a pair of charismatic stars and some analog shootouts for cities being pulverized in Imax 3D and the fate of the world at stake feels somehow retro, like listening to music on a record album, and for at least half its length, 2 Guns coasts along enjoyably on that alone.  Eventually, we recall that some substance and sense would be useful as well, but it’s still a fun ride.

Based (isn’t everything?) on a comic book series, adapted by Blake Masters, and directed by Baltasar Kormakur, 2 Guns has plenty of twists, the first couple of which have already been revealed by the trailer:  bank-robbers Trench (Denzel Washington) and Stig (Mark Wahlberg) pull a heist in a sleepy bank on the Mexico/US border, only to discover a lot more money on deposit than they’d been led to believe, and shortly thereafter that each of them isn’t what he appears to be, Trench being an undercover DEA agent and Stig with Navy Intelligence.  After that, the movie is pretty much a series of double-crosses and narrow escapes, as Trench and Stig inevitably have to reluctantly learn to trust each other, since everyone else in the movie is determined to kill them.  Their foes are a colorful group that include Edward James Olmos as the cartel boss Trench was after, Fred Ward, James Marsden and Robert John  Burke as shady government types, Paula Patton as Trench’s sometime love interest, and Bill Paxton having a fine old time as the kind of shadowy movie assassin who keeps up a line of patter even as he’s blowing holes in people.

Mostly, though, 2 Guns is a busman’s holiday for Washington and Wahlberg, who make a fine comic team and barely try to pretend that they’re taking any of it seriously.  Washington is essentially playing a lighter version of the character he’s been doing in movies like Unstoppable and Safe House, serving as grumpy mentor to his younger co-star as he reluctantly saves both of their lives, while Wahlberg proves again what a funny knucklehead he can be.  There are times when 2 Guns has the feel of a really violent Hope & Crosby comedy, or one of Soderberg’s Ocean’s pictures.  Wahlberg worked before with Kormakur on last year’s Contraband, a thriller that paid a little more attention to its plot, and the director knows how to calibrate Wahlberg’s talent for dimly self-righteous frustration for maximum laughs.  (This is a movie the buddies in the Wahlberg-produced Entourage would love.)

In its second half, when it’s finally time for 2 Guns to start explaining what’s been going on and resolving the storyline, the script gets a little too dumb for its own good, as Trench and Stig make an unauthorized appearance on what is apparently the least-protected post-9/11 Naval base in America, consistently trust the wrong people despite all evidence to the contrary, and then all the still-breathing characters try to blow each other up for a grand finale.  It’s no more than fast food, and just about as nourishing.  But fast it is, and that’s a relief after the ponderous thrills of most of this summer’s epics.  Kormakur knows how to cut action scenes (the editor is Michael Tronick) so that they make spatial sense, and while there’s no particular momentum or visual distinctiveness at play here, modest competence is achievement enough.

2 Guns may not be a blockbuster hit in theaters, but it should live forever on cable TV and streaming.  It’s what “summer movie” used to mean before Hollywood became obsessed with “tentpoles,” a couple of hours of professional, moderately mindless entertainment.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."