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With: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, Fred Ward, James Marsden, Edward James Olmos, Robert John Burke, Greg Sproles, Patrick Fischler
Written by: Blake Masters, based on graphic novels by Steven Grant
Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur
MPAA Rating: R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity
Running Time: 109
Date: 08/02/2013

2 Guns (2013)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

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By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's hard nowadays to make a twisty crime comedy with sharp dialogue without recalling Quentin Tarantino, just as you can't make a suspense movie without recalling Alfred Hitchcock. Seeing 2 Guns, it's easy to say, "it's OK, but it's no Tarantino." Happily, the first part of that sentence it's still true: it's OK.

2 Guns is based on graphic novels by Steven Grant and written by Blake Masters; it's his first feature screenplay after a career in TV. The director, Baltasar Kormákur, is Icelandic; I reviewed his first movie, 101 Reykjavík, back in 2001, then didn't hear from him again until last year's Contraband (which was also OK).

These guys have some very strong elements in their movie, including two great stars that work well together, a selection of fine character actors in decent roles, and a brutally cynical core idea. However, the movie concentrates too hard on its wrap-up and showdown to sustain any kind of freshness or surprise, and -- like most movies this summer -- it feels too long.

'Bobby' Trench (Denzel Washington) is an undercover DEA agent working with an undercover Naval intelligence officer 'Stig' Stigman (Mark Wahlberg), though neither of them knows it. They are working on bringing down a Mexican drug lord, Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos), by posing as drug runners. When a load of cocaine fails to appear, they embark on Plan B. They will rob the bank where Papi has been making regular deliveries of cash to a safe deposit box.

Unfortunately, instead of the expected $3 million, they discover more than $40 million -- way too much for someone like Papi. This brings out a sadistic thug called Earl (Bill Paxton), who tries to figure out where the money has gone. Meanwhile, both 'Bobby' and 'Trench' have been double-crossed and must rely on each other to find the money, clear their names, and hopefully defeat all the bad guys.

Additionally, James Marsden stars as Stig's superior officer, Fred Ward is a naval commander, and the unbearably cute Paula Patton plays Deb, Bobby's lover, who gets mixed up in the middle of everything.

The most interesting thing here is just how high up the corruption goes. Hint: it's more than just drug lords, or the DEA, or even the Navy. But the movie treats this knowledge very cynically. It seems to have no opinion, as if this type of thing could really be happening, and it's better not to think about it. There's no outrage, which seems like a wasted opportunity for such an outrageous movie.

The good guys' bad behavior, on the other hand, is justly celebrated, and Wahlberg and Washington make a very good team, with Wahlberg motor-mouthing through his cute, slightly dim, devil-may-care dialogue. I enjoyed a good laugh when the two of them are captured and bound in a chicken coop, and Stig takes the opportunity to call Bobby a "misanthorpe," which is followed by an argument about the correct pronunciation and definition of the word.

Olmos and Paxton are likewise terrific, both containing great amounts of energy within specific character definitions.

Then, like I said, the movie stops dishing out surprises in an attempt to get everyone together for an explosive shootout finale. It's very hard to make a "twisty" movie and follow through with this promise up until the end, and this is where Tarantino gets credit for doing what he does so brilliantly. 2 Guns does it pretty well. It's one of those movies that you may enjoy but will likely forget all about a week later.

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