’2 Guns’ is a comic throwback to sleazier times

Bill Paxton (opposite Denzel Washington) is memorably terrifying in "2 Guns." Credit: Patti Perret
Bill Paxton (opposite Denzel Washington) is memorably terrifying in “2 Guns.”
Credit: Patti Perret

‘2 Guns’
Director: Baltasar Kormakur
Stars: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg
Rating: R
4 (out of 5) Globes

Like nearly everything that gets cranked out as summer movie entertainment these days, “2 Guns” is based on a comic book. But it’s not that kind of comic. Steven Grant’s source is a grounded, albeit still ridiculous, look at two undercover agents. It’s not a stylish “Sin City” noir clone; Grant also writes comics spun from “CSI.” The splashy, $90 million film version has less in common with anything currently in multiplexes, but plenty to do with the grim, sleazy, cheerfully pessimistic films Hollywood regularly and improbably cranked out during the 1970s. It’s not one of those films itself, but it’s closer than we deserve.

Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg play members of different agencies involved in taking down a Mexican drug cartel. Neither initially knows the other is undercover. One of the first acts in the film is for Wahlberg to shoot off the heads of various chickens buried up to their necks in dirt — which is how Sam Peckinpah’s great “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” opens. Other gratuitous nods to the whiskey-soaked director abound, as do ones to “Charley Varrick,” a crime saga led by a taciturn, cold-blooded Walter Matthau.

If the script, by “Brotherhood” creator Blake Masters, intimately understands these films and their worldweary vision, it doesn’t feel compelled to recreate them completely. Our leads get embroiled in the convoluted pursuit of stolen bank money, which is desired by the Navy (led by James Marsden), the CIA (led by Bill Paxton) and the south-of-the-border cartel (led by Edward James Olmos). Olmos’ character is the most exhausted, tired of being jerked around by his smug connections up north. But Paxton is the scariest. Never speaking above a whisper, and allowing his Louisiana-bred words to flow like molasses, he’s not above murder, often by way of Russian Roulette focused on one’s crotch.

But the tone, while weathered, is goofy. This is a comedy with no straight man. Washington and Wahlberg prove an oddly compelling duo, swapping quips and engaging in macho one-upmanship. Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur (“Contraband”) adopts a style that’s part Walter Hill — all grizzled behavior and Ry Cooder-esque slide guitar scoring — and part Richard Lester. One grisly interrogation is amusingly set in a garage, where the sensor keeps turning off the light, forcing our leads to awkwardly swat around their arms to get it back on. The treatment of government agencies is incredibly cynical, even for a ‘70s throwback film. But the sense of humor tempers that. And though it falls apart during the climax, one has to love where the gobs of money — half the film’s budget, mind you — ultimately wind up.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Police seek mother of slain 11-year-old on involuntary…

Police are seeking the mother of an 11-year-old girl who was accidentally shot to death by her 2-year-old brother two weeks ago on involuntary manslaughter…

Local

Chestnut Hill College student found dead Wednesday morning

A 22-year-0ld Chestnut Hill College student was found dead this morning inside a college dormitory, police said.

International

Nearly 300 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes

Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea Wednesday, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years.

News

Explosions in new Boston Marathon bomb panic, 'twisted'…

A fresh Boston Marathon terror alert, which caused Bomb Squad officers to order an evacuation while two controlled explosions were carried out, was today being…

Television

Jim Rash talks 'The Writer's Room' and amazing…

For Jim Rash, as the fifth season of "Community" comes to a close, the second season of "The Writer's Room" begins.

Books

Poems from prison: 'How to Survive a Bullet…

Celebrate National Poetry Month with, "'How to Survive a Bullet to the Heart."

Movies

Review: 'Heaven is for Real' tries to be…

The mega-bestseller "Heaven is for Real" becomes a movie that tries to portray wrestling with faith — or at least it tries to try.

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 16: 'The Americans,'…

'The Americans' Philip and Elizabeth face "painful turns" in their missions. Maybe next week they'll have a nice easy mission with no moral ambiguity? Probably…

U.S. Soccer

Andrew Wenger has big shoes to fill on…

Lancaster County native Andrew Wenger will feel pressure to fill the shoes of departer forward Jack McInerney.

NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could…

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could the Mavericks surprise?

NBA

Sixers, Michael Carter-Williams give fans a happy ending…

The 2013-14 season for the 76ers has nearly come to a close.

NHL

Flyers must make Rangers feel their presence

Perhaps it’s the proximity of the two biggest cities in the East, because whenever these two square off the intensity seems to rise.

Home

Steal home decorating tips from stylist and creator…

We hit her up for some space-conscious, budget-friendly design tips.

Food

Wahlbergs expanding Wahlburgers fast food joint across North…

Wahlburgers will open new restaurants in Boston, Toronto and Philadelphia.

Wellbeing

Could a facelift give you the edge at…

It's not just women lining up for procedures.

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…