If you told us that the script for “2 Guns” had been collecting dust in Universal’s vault since 1997, it wouldn’t surprise us in the slightest. Between the reluctant but chatty partners, the non-linear timeline, the quirky but deadly spooks, the unconventional interrogation, the lone female character of importance-turned-hostage, the Mexican standoff, and most importantly, the complete disregard for logic, movies don’t get much more ‘90s than this one. Thankfully, it’s also a lot of fun. It may not have an original thought in its head, but it has Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, and they sell the hell out of it.
Bobby (Washington) and Stig (Wahlberg) are trying to make a big score with Mexican drug lord Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). The deal doesn’t go down the way they expect, so the two hatch a backup plan: steal the money that their closest ally in Papi’s camp has been stashing, in a small bank in a one-horse town north of the border. Bobby and Stig are expecting a certain amount of cash, but wind up with over ten times that much, and before they know it, they are on the run from every law enforcement agency in the country, not to mention Papi’s drug cartel. Also of note: Bobby and Stig are undercover agents for the DEA and the Navy, respectively, though neither of them knew about the other until everything hit the fan.
“2 Guns” was originally going to star Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. That would have been a terrible movie. Vaughn and Wilson are funny guys, but they would have made it all about them – hey, look at us wisecrackers! We’re the worst undercover agents in movie history! – whereas Washington and Wahlberg elevate the material by not making it about them, and putting the (admittedly ridiculous) story first. The two have excellent chemistry, and the opening scene of them in the diner – yep, a diner, bringing the ‘90s Movie Cliché count to eight – is worth the price of admission alone. Getting James Marsden to play a military heavy and Bill Paxton to play a laidback but ice-cold spook only sweetens the deal.
How well you stomach the rest of the film, though, will depend on two things: how much suspension of disbelief you can tolerate, and whether or not you’re a guy. This is a Guy’s Movie, a world filled with hand-to-hand combat, cute flirty waitresses, guns, stuff getting blow’d up, and “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” ass-kicker Paula Patton topless… with Denzel Washington. (Between this and “Flight,” Denzel has done spectacularly well of late in the ‘naked hottie companion’ department.) It’s the kind of place where Washington and Wahlberg walk away seemingly unscathed after suffering a beating that would have resulted in no less than two punctured lungs, yet this oversight doesn’t detract from the overall story, mainly because everything else up to that point was just as ludicrous. “2 Guns” is an exercise in excess, the cinematic equivalent of blowing off steam. It may all amount to next to nothing, but damn, did it feel good while it was happening.