The 400-Word Review: 2 Guns

By Sean Collier

August 5, 2013

You are giving me neither good vibrations nor sweet sensations.

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The opening scene of Baltasar Kormákur’s shoot-em-up action flick 2 Guns is pretty great.

Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg argue in a diner booth across the street from a savings and loan. Denzel goes to case the joint while Mark flirts with the waitress. They have a cell-phone argument over what to order. Point-by-point, they calmly set up the heist.

The two stars have surprisingly great chemistry, and draw easy laughs. It’s a scene that promises a light, character-driven caper.

Then the rest of the movie happens.

The larger plot of 2 Guns is severely lacking in originality, motivating and intrigue. Denzel is an undercover DEA agent; Wahlberg is an undercover Navy police officer. Both are chasing the same Mexican drug lord; neither knows the other is a cop. For the first hour, false tension is created solely by characters refusing to explain to other characters key plot points, even though they can and should. For the second hour, hollow twists are made by turning characters against one another for no clear reason.


If that’s not enough to turn you off, there’s a healthy dash of sexism; Paula Patton, the only woman with more than a line, is abused, defamed, abandoned and worse (but only after some gratuitous nudity.) Oh, and animal lovers should be advised that one of our heroes shoots a bunch of chickens in their respective faces (graphically) to prove a point.

So you’d better really like Denzel and Marky Mark.

It’s a shame, because there’s some fine work here. Both of the leads are good. Bill Paxton shows up to ape Woody Harrelson’s role in No Country for Old Men; it’s a ripoff, but an entertaining one. Edward James Olmos owns his scenes as the aforementioned drug lord. And Kormákur, who presumably could do little about the script and the story, adds visual drama.

Even putting problems with story aside — and why would you — 2 Guns fundamentally misfires on how best to stretch its running time. The promise of the opening scene is dashed repeatedly, as interactions between the two stars are kept relatively brief in favor of positively endless gunplay. Where there could’ve been dialogue, there are guns: being brandished, being fired, being reloaded, and being worn around Wahlberg’s neck.

We’re left, then, with strong-to-very-strong performances and fine a stupid, meandering, violent, misogynist movie. An impressive failure is still a failure.

Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at



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