Film Review 2 Guns

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Denzel Washington, left, and Mark Wahlberg in a scene from "2 Guns."

Universal Pictures/Patti Perret

Judging from the trailers, “2 Guns” seems like the typical movie Hollywood lets loose in the dog days between July’s blockbuster season and September’s launch of the Oscar race. Take a couple of big-name stars looking for an easy paycheck, put them up against disposable bad guys who never learned to hit a target, toss in some explosives, roll credits, count cash.

Yet “2 Guns” is better than its ad campaign or release date might suggest. Peppered with solid performances, a handful of funny lines, and an energetic style that distracts from the contrived, convoluted plot, “2 Guns” — based on a series of graphic novels by Stephen Grant — is surprisingly entertaining.

Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg star as Bobby and Stig, hoods who’ve teamed up in a gangster marriage of convenience to bring drugs across the Mexico-Texas border from cartel honcho Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). Or so we think. Neither Bobby nor Stig may be who they say they are, even to each other. And then when $43 million in cash goes missing — and everyone from Greco to the CIA and the U.S. Navy (don’t ask) wants it and thinks Bobby and Stig have it, fists and bullets start flying.

The role doesn’t demand much from Washington, but he still brings a depth and a sense of calculated cool to elevate it above the usual action movie slam-o-rama. The ubiquitous Wahlberg manages to generate some buddy-movie chemistry with Washington and he fits comfortably into the role of the wise-cracking sidekick.

But it’s Fort Worth native Bill Paxton who is the real scene-stealer as a thoroughly Texan yet icily threatening government agent. His pitch-perfect performance of restrained evil is somewhat offset though by the stiff Paula Patton (“Jumping the Broom,” “Disconnect”) as Bobby’s girlfriend.

Working from a script by TV writer Blake Masters (“Brotherhood,” “Law & Order”), Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur (“Contraband”) keeps things moving briskly so the plot holes don’t turn into gaping canyons.

In a summer when so many of the hype-heavy movies turned out to be big-budget bores, it’s refreshing when a movie like “2 Guns” achieves its admittedly modest ambitions. Still, let’s hope it’s not so successful there’s a sequel next summer. “3 Guns” would be one too many.

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