********* 7 out of 10 *********
Two mainstream male actors sharing the screen in a movie is no longer an uncommon thing. In fact this year itself has seen its fair share of dual actors. Prior to 2 Guns, Mark Wahlberg has starred with Russell Crowe in Broken City and then with Dwayne Johnson in Pain & Gain; Dwayne Johnson was cast beside Channing Tatum in G.I. Joe: Retaliation though that did not extend for the whole duration of the film; Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto returned together in Star Trek Into Darkness; Johnny Depp played the sidekick to Armie Hammer’s character in The Lone Ranger; more recently, Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl have set the screen ablaze in Rush. There would be quite a few more of such movies released in this year where two actors drove the film equally, and still some to come like the explosive pairing of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Escape Plan. The two actors may be on the same side, or one may be the antithesis of the other, or they may have been on the same side that led to a fall-out later, or the other way round. Whatever the case may be, to get to see two fine actors on the big screen for the price of one movie ticket, makes it enticing enough to go for the earliest show. But what really needs to work in such movies, despite the individuals being impeccable actors in their own right, is the chemistry between the duo, be it a bromance of sorts or an intense rivalry. They have to add onto each other and not nullify, they need to deliver something more together that only one actor could not have. That itself makes 2 Guns interesting, for Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg are right there at the top with the finest actors in town, and both can play the intense guys effortlessly with their eyes doing the talking. So when they are put together, do we just get an overdose of that intensity or is there something more to offer? Thankfully, 2 Guns manages to deliver an engaging chemistry between the lead pairing for most parts making it a fast-paced action film that entertains.
2 Guns is based on a graphic novel series with the same name. The movie begins with two criminals Robert Trench (Denzel Washington) and Michael Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) stepping out of their car outside a diner. The plan… rob the bank beside the diner. The plot then moves back in time, as Trench and Stigman make their way to a Mexican drug lord Papi Greco looking to buy some cocaine as part of a deal. Certain events then make the duo take the next step of robbing the local bank to get their hands on Papi’s cash. Things go ahead as planned, and then… they don’t. The bank robbery uncovers a ton of hidden secrets, dirty money, and backstabbing. Who’s who starts becoming a big question, and that gets the ball rolling for the fast-paced action-packed flick.
Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur had made quite an impression last year with the neatly put together Contraband that had also starred Mark Wahlberg. Much of what worked for Contraband works for 2 Guns as well. A fast-paced story around drugs and robbery, a few twists and turns to keep the audience engaged, the right mix of comedy with violence that does not let one mood overtake the other, and fine performances from the lead actors. Kormákur’s dedicated effort to make an entertaining film clearly shows, as the pace of the movie rarely slackens and it remains engaging even when the direction the plot is about to take becomes clearer. The plot is not without its loopholes though (how can one enter a naval base so recklessly?), but then it is a movie after all. It is meant to entertain, and as long as it achieves that, one can let some glitches be forgotten.
The movie’s backbone lies in the camaraderie between Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. Both accomplished actors, the question was never about their own performances, but how they share the screen with each other. In short, they do a good job! Washington plays the tougher guy, the unsaid leader of the duo. As always, he makes his acting look cool and easy, best in his intense scenes, allowing the occasional lighter moment. Wahlberg is like the younger brother, the one who winks at the waitresses, the one who gets a bit cocky at times, and the one with the best lines in the movie. For many scenes, it has to be said, Wahlberg steals the show, playing the tough guy with the big mouth. He adds to the comic timing in the film and he matches Washington in the intense scenes every step of the way. Paula Patton, playing the ex of Washington’s character, is the only established female presence in the film. While movies like these do not give much space to the female actor to show their acting prowess, even then Patton surprisingly disappoints in her scenes. Not only does she seem overwhelmed by the presence of two accomplished actors, she appears to put in a very disheartened performance lacking in conviction. For someone who managed to make her presence felt strongly in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol despite being cast alongside a strong group of actors, Patton does fall flat in 2 Guns. There are some decent performances by Edward James Olmos as Papi Greco and Bill Paxton as Earl, but nothing really that you wouldn’t have seen before.
Overall, 2 Guns is an enjoyable flick, where its gaps get covered by the pacy movements and the fine chemistry of the leading duo. It is the kind of movie that can make two hours fly pretty quickly. Movies like these are needed at regular intervals, that aren’t loud and filled with special effects, that aren’t based on true dramatic events in someone’s lives, that do not make you wonder about unanswerable questions of life, but are the escape pods from your regular life into something entertaining and fun. And once you step out of the theatre, well, there is nothing much to ponder but just move on with your life.