"2 Guns." Two appealing actors. Too bad.
Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg make a crackerjack team, but they're trapped in a story that shows its graphic-novel roots.
It's shallow, simplistic and suffers any time the two leads aren't sharing scenes or trading insults, threats and wisecracks. It also features a double-crosser who might as well be wearing a T-shirt with "Dude, don't trust me" emblazoned on it; we can see it, although the normally perceptive character cannot.
"2 Guns" features Mr. Washington as Bobby, a DEA agent who's been undercover for three years trying to get close to Mexican drug kingpin Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). Mr. Wahlberg is Stig, a U.S. naval intelligence officer who is also on a secret assignment while paired with Bobby across the border.
2 stars = Mediocre
Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg.
R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity.
Neither knows the true identity of the other when the story opens, but a plan to nail Papi yields all sort of surprises and a colossal cache of cash. It also brings allies, adversaries and killers out of the shadows.
Bobby and Stig fuss and feud but may have to rely on each other if they are to survive bullets, bulls or Bill Paxton as a man on a mission who likes to ask, "You ever play Russian roulette?" And then gambles with the life, legs or manhood of the stranger in his midst.
"2 Guns" reunites Mr. Wahlberg with Baltasar Kormakur, director of "Contraband," a better than expected action thriller about a reformed smuggler pulled back into the outlaw game when his brother-in-law botches a job.
Here, he is half of what "2 Guns" graphic novelist Steven Grant calls an anti-buddy story.
Stig is impulsive and fast on the draw, whether firing his weapon, talking, driving or even winking at waitresses -- while Bobby moves at a more languid pace, trying to look the part of a guy who could trade fake passports for cocaine. He snaps gold caps over a couple of teeth and dons stylish summer-weight fedoras as part of his disguise.
The leads have comic chemistry and their action credentials are impeccable. Mr. Washington has said he was looking for something light after playing the drunken pilot of a doomed airplane in "Flight," and "2 Guns" was the answer.
A couple of key scenes look like graphic novel panels come to life, but the action and characters are sketched with the same lack of complexity.
Paula Patton is Bobby's DEA handler and sometime bedmate who bares her breasts briefly and gratuitously; James Marsden and Fred Ward are Navy officers of differing ranks; and Mr. Paxton is, well, let that be a surprise, but he is very good at being single-minded and menacing.
Despite the always entertaining leads, the movie is utterly forgettable, with a misfire of a jokey final scene.