Along with “Lethal Weapon,” Walter Hill’s “48 Hrs.” paved the way for countless interracial buddy cop flicks since, up to and including Hill’s own “Bullet to the Head” earlier this year. If we’re being honest, Baltasar Kormákur’s “2 Guns” beats present-day Hill at his own game, what with its endless banter, bloody shootouts and requisite quadruple-crosses. This is a cable staple in the making, and I do mean that as a compliment.
The chief ingredients here are 2 leads: Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington, pairing well together as Michael Stigman and Bobby Trench, a couple of low-level hustlers cozying up to Mexican drug lord Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). They’ve decided to rob a small bank north of the border where Papi regularly stashes cash, but when they expect around $3 million to split between them, Mike and Bobby find themselves carting away $43.1 million for their troubles.
There’s one big hiccup, though, and if you’ve seen the trailers by now, then you know what’s what: Bobby is DEA, Michael works for Naval Intelligence, and neither knows the other is undercover. Naturally, a reluctant partnership ensues when each man finds himself framed by their superiors, and we’re spared the culture-clash B.S. because we’ve already seen that both can work together when it’s in their best interests. “Don’t Kumbaya me,” Bobby says, deflating the token ebony-and-ivory jokes early and well.
No, Blake Masters’ screenplay (based on Steven Grant’s graphic novels) finds other ways to keep things funny, if not necessarily fresh. We shouldn’t be surprised to learn that corruption knows no bounds, or that Bobby’s love interest (Paula Patton, Washington’s “Deja Vu” co-star) will become a bargaining chip. Frankly, the formula is besides the point; even when they’re at odds, Wahlberg and Washington are a perfect hot-cold mix, and the supporting ranks are filled out nicely by sturdy character actors like Olmos, Fred Ward and Bill Paxton, who’s clearly having the most fun of all with tracking down his targets.
Furthermore, “2 Guns” is by every measure a brighter film than his “Contraband” was, a Tex-Mex neo-Western that embraces its Southwestern setting to pull off robberies, kidnappings and the impromptu siege of a military base, out of which our heroes find a suitably explosive means of escape. Even with four parties on Bobby and Michael’s tail at any given time, the motives are always apparent (if not outright identical -- the $43.1 million should have given that away), and the cynicism towards various government agencies is equally felt.
The month of August has long struggled to shake its reputation as the summer doldrums, home to the occasional “District 9” or “Inglourious Basterds.” However, in a season stuffed with empty eye candy, “2 Guns” comes along as something of a welcome burrito -- plenty satisfying and hardly nutritious.
SCORE: : 7.9 / 10