by George Sax
If it sometimes appears that the comic book industry has recently been eating Hollywood’s lunch, this may be because it has been. It’s hardly an unfriendly takeover. The movie industry’s increasingly intense search for “tent pole” properties and franchising opportunities has been leading it to comics and their often blunt-edged, fantastical, and adaptable stories. Marvel Entertainment and DC Entertainment are now owned by Disney and Time Warner, respectively, and the big guys aren’t the only successful players. Independent Boom Comics, tiny in comparison, sold the movie rights to its 2 Guns comic series to Universal, which has now brought out a big, loud, jazzed-up, and star-led vehicle with blockbuster and franchise ambitions.
The title’s dual guns are Bobby (Denzel Washington) and Stig (Mark Wahlberg), two secret government anti-drug agents from competing federal agencies whose friendly cooperation in the 2 Guns’s hectically dense plotting is severed before the movie is too far along. Bobby’s an undercover DEA operative who’s hooked up with Stig’s Navy black-ops agent as the picture begins. They sit in a rural Texas diner, contemplating robbing the small-town bank across the street. Neither man suspects the other’s real identity or motive for this criminal adventure. And to be frank, I don’t feel up to the task of untangling and summarizing 2 Guns’s convoluting, tangent-embroidering storyline. (Neither, I’ll wager, will a large number of the film’s audience, including even some of the comic’s fan base and some bluffing reviewers. Like Red 2, another recent comic-derived movie, 2 Guns raises the question of why these pop fantasies often wind up more obscure than film adaptations of Leo Tolstoy and Joseph Conrad.) Suffice it to say, both men soon find themselves called rogue agents and on the run from federal officers, who are pretty rogue themselves.
2 Guns’s knowing, barely post-pubescent tone is its most appealing feature, as Bobby and Stig comedically bond over mock-stinging verbal hits and ripostes. Washington and Wahlberg have perhaps unexpected mutual chemistry that often overrides the movie’s tendency to run off into baroque messiness. Baltasar Kormákur’s direction is helpfully brisk and the results seem to indicate a rapport with actors. (Edward James Olmos has a pungent turn as a cynical and very evil Mexican drug lord.)
Beneath the whiz-bang effects, noisy, violent action, and buddy-picture wit, there’s a slightly strange political paranoia seeping through this movie. It’s hard to say if there are many captivated genre devotees who will take this stuff seriously, but what people may sense is the scent of sequel wafting through the theater.
Watch the trailer for 2 Guns
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