The first time I saw the poster for "2 Guns," the new action-comedy from Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur, a friend pointed it out to me while standing in the lobby of the multiplex, observing that it looked so hilariously generic it seemed to be one of those posters for a fake movie you see in the background of other films. Well kudos to the marketing department, because now having seen the film, that actually turns out to be a fairly accurate portrayal.
Based on the graphic novel by Steven Grant (though not having read comic, I can't comment as to how closely it follows its plot), the film's story centers around partners in crime, Bobby (Denzel Washington) and Stig (Mark Wahlberg). As the film begins, the two men are working together to rob a small bank where Mexican drug lord Papi Greco (an entertaining Edward James Olmos) has supposedly deposited $3 million of his earnings. However, we learn early on that neither man is who the other believes him to be. Bobby is actually a DEA agent hoping to gather enough information to put together a case against Greco, while Stig is a Naval Intelligence officer on a not-so-legal mission to obtain the stolen money as a means of funding covert operations.
The two men successfully get their hands on the money, but quickly discover that instead of $3 million, they've somehow made off with $43 million. Where exactly that extra money came from and who it belongs to is a mystery, but as Bobby and Stig find themselves betrayed by the people they thought they could trust, they become targets of the DEA, the Navy, Greco and his men, and suddenly the CIA. As doors close off to them one by one, it isn't long before their backs are against the wall and they have no choice but to team back up if they have any chance of getting out of this rather sticky situation.
If ever there was a film that benefitted from having movie stars in the lead roles, it's "2 Guns." The interplay between Washington and Wahlberg is absolutely the saving grace of the movie. Washington plays a character we've seen before; the short-tempered no-nonsense professional, but he does it extremely well here. It's Wahlberg, however, that's the true MVP of the film, playing the sharp-tongued smartass to comedic perfection. Bill Paxton turns in a scenery-chewing performance as a mysterious professional killer tracking down the missing money. Paula Patton is wasted as Bobby's former girlfriend. It's a role that starts off promisingly, but goes nowhere after the film realizes that it has no use for a woman after she's taken off her top. It's especially disappointing considering the potential for ass-kickery she demonstrated in "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol."
Kormákur demonstrates competent directing ability, but he has trouble balancing the conflicting tones of the film. Amidst the jokey feel of the rest of the movie, the moments of realistic, frequently graphic violence are jarring and Kormákur doesn't have the finesse necessary to make it work. Save for some strong performances, "2 Guns" is ultimately as forgettable as its title, and likely to fade from audience's memories before the summer movie season comes to an end.