'2 Guns' review: Humor-laced action flick a fun, modern-day '48 Hours'

Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg’s buddy action-comedy “2 Guns” is an unexpected dog-days-of-summer surprise.

Washington and Wahlberg are Bobby and Stig, two swaggering undercover agents – Washington for the DEA and Wahlberg for the Navy – who each believe the other is really a criminal. When the two knock over a bank that holds Mexican drug kingpin Papi Greco's (Edward James Olmos) stash of $3 million, they unexpectedly find $43 million. The money, however, doesn’t really belong to Greco, but to a sadistic rogue CIA agent (Bill Paxton), and soon everyone from the US Navy to the DEA to the Mexican drug lords wants a piece of the pie. When Bobby and Stig’s employers try to entrap them, they go on the run, fleeing anyone with a heartbeat.

The film winks its eye at the real-life Fast and Furious border situation by creating its own outrageous scandal involving drugs and money. The display of corruption on both sides is so extreme, it’s comical. Indeed the film’s finest achievement is to not take itself seriously. The ever-twisting plot is ridiculous. The entanglement among the Mexican drug cartels, the DEA and the Navy are so nutty, it adds to the charm of the whole picture. This is not a serious action film, instead it’s a throwback to 80s fare like “48 Hours” and “Lethal Weapon.” Director Baltasar Kormákur has created an action flick laced with humor, making “2 Guns” more entertaining than any shoot-em-up movie this year.

Washington, especially, glides through this film with enough charisma to raise the film above its B-movie premise. Denzel does smooth and cool like no other while Wahlberg’s volatile Stig is the perfect contrast. The buddy-cop routine is old hat, but Washington and Wahlberg’s rapport is palpable. Their delivery and reactions are so well-played, and often laugh-out-loud funny, that you will forget that you’ve seen this movie plenty of times before.

There is no shortage of baddies in this film. James Marsden sheds his demure persona for a rough and tough corrupt Navy rogue, which he actually handles quite well. Edward James Olmos returns to the big screen as drug kingpin Papi Greco, who is actually the least threatening of all the villains. Olmos, when thrown in to the mix with Denzel and Wahlberg, is surprisingly great at comedy. For an actor so well known for dramatic roles, Papi Greco nicely shows Olmos' versatility. Bill Paxton lays on the hamminess of playing Earl, the corrupt and violent CIA operative. The character seems to want to be much more frightening and unpredictable than Paxton makes him, but instead the “Hatfields & McCoys” star plays up the absurdity of the character causing Earl to lose his bite.

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Paula Patton reunites with Washington (they both starred in “Déjà Vu”) as Bobby’s DEA contact. While she made a great spy in “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” Patton is sadly demoted a few steps here, substituting most of the action scenes for a few short exposition sequences.

Based on a graphic novel (what isn’t these days?), “2 Guns” has a script that is quick on the draw. Writer Blake Master’s dialogue is coarse and peppered with strong banter, which Wahlberg has become smartly accustomed to dishing in the majority of his roles. Whether you love him or hate him, Wahlberg is excellently paired with Washington.

During a summer that has seen disappointing blockbuster after disappointing blockbuster, “2 Guns” proves to be a great snack in between disappointing meals.

MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 1 hour and 49 minutes.