Daily | Baltasar Kormakur’s 2 GUNS

2 Guns

Washington and Wahlberg in ‘2 Guns’

Opening Friday in the U.S. and then opening the Locarno Film Festival on August 7, Baltasar Kormakur’s 2 Guns is “an action-heavy crime film whose protagonists consistently get more than they bargained for,” writes John DeFore in the Hollywood Reporter. “Think you’re stealing three million bucks from that bank? Try $43 million. Think there’s one lawman undercover in the drug cartel? Double that, and then set the two against each other in some double-blind scheming that forces a reevaluation of the label ‘buddy movie.’ Nothing here is underplayed, least of all a convoluted plot that eventually has three governmental entities and one cartel fighting over the loot. But the picture survives its excesses thanks to winning chemistry between stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, who animate banter-heavy dialogue and click so well one wonders why they haven’t shared the screen before.”

Variety‘s Scott Foundas: “Based on the 2008 BOOM! Studios comics series by writer Steven Grant and illustrator Mateus Santolouco, the hyper-convoluted plot of 2 Guns bears more than a passing resemblance to Oliver Stone’s recent Savages, with its dense web of American military types and government agents battling each other—and the Mexican drug cartels—over a multimillion dollar jackpot. It also pays affectionate homage to Don Siegel’s marvelous 1973 Charley Varrick, beginning with a bank robbery in the fictional town of Tres Cruces, N.M. (also the setting of Siegel’s pic), where partners in crime Bobby Trench (Washington) and Stig Stigman (Wahlberg) attempt to steal $3 million in cash belonging to Mexican drug lord Papi Greco (a terrific Edward James Olmos).” And he basically agrees with DeFore, noting that “a movie like this rises or falls by the chemistry of its leads, and Washington and Wahlberg, two of the most likable leading men in movies today to begin with, are especially likable here.”

But for Screen‘s Tim Grierson, “this tale of crooked lawmen, stolen loot and dangerous drug lords gets so convoluted that its attempts to be a harder-edged, amoral entertainment get lost amidst the uninspired execution.”

The Voice‘s Stephanie Zacharek: “This is a here today, gone tomorrow trifle, albeit one with lots of gunplay. In midsummer, that may be enough, but it’s still a shame that 2 Guns shoots so many blanks.”

But Marshall Fine has seen “a film with the wit, tension and sheer headlong pace to grab and hold your attention for a brisk 106 minutes. Yes, that’s right—finally, there’s a summer movie with high-value stars that doesn’t drag on into the next day. After a season of two-hour-plus behemoths, Kormakur proves it’s possible to tell a tight, taut story without skimping on humor or action.”

Interviews: Sarah Elizabeth Tooker with Washington for the Wall Street Journal, Adrian Lee with Wahlberg for the Canadian Press, and Mike Ryan with Bill Paxton for the Huffington Post.

Updates, 7/31: “Even supporting players like Olmos and Bill Paxton (the latter plays a merciless, Russian-roulette-loving government operative) get meaty roles to sink their teeth into,” writes Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York. “A shame, then, that 2 Guns quickly degenerates into boilerplate Hollywood sound and fury, complete with a climactic Mexican standoff that revolves around a massive, burning pile of money. Irony, thou art lost.”

2 Guns


At Slant, R. Kurt Osenlund finds that “this short-tempered, law-straddling riff on the likes of Lethal Weapon […is based on…] a source that, however seemingly inane, is Exhibit Z in the disheartening case against Hollywood, and its pants-pissing fear of funding anything without a preexisting fanbase.”

“There’s nothing about 2 Guns that doesn’t feel prefab, like someone poured a packet of Insta-Movie into a glass of water,” finds Gabe Toro, who gives it a C- at the Playlist.

Updates, 8/1: “There’s no shortage of surprises and reversals—but not much beyond them, either,” writes Ben Kenigsberg, who gives 2 Guns a C+ at the AV Club.

“Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur—who made his American breakthrough in 2012 with the no-nonsense Contraband, also starring Wahlberg—loses his grip a bit at the end,” writes Keith Phipps at the Dissolve, “but he keeps what could be a ball of confusion from growing unwieldy while pushing the plot forward. Kormákur lets his stars balance the buddy-movie levity with just enough dramatic weight to keep it grounded, and his directing style seems like a conscious corrective to the disorienting cutting and obvious CGI effects that have come to dominate Hollywood action films. 2 Guns’ setpieces are gripping, rough, and blessedly coherent, whether Kormákur is staging a hand-to-hand tussle in the desert or blowing up half a naval base, window by window and floor by floor. It’s tempting to call what Kormákur does here a throwback, but really, it looks like a model others should be following.”

“Wahlberg capably plays the hammy, wacky partner to Denzel Washington’s cooler, tough-guy cop,” writes Time‘s Mary Pols. “They’re cute together, these two big stars, but the film around them, a sort of Tarantino lite, is desperately empty.”

Updates, 8/2: 2 Guns is “a slick, slippery thriller that taps into the anarchic playfulness that made the best American action flicks of the 1980s and ’90s pop,” writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. And Washington and Wahlberg make for “one of the better odd couples to bond and bicker since Mel met Danny.”

Denzel Washington


“Along with Lethal Weapon,” adds William Goss at, “Walter Hill’s 48 Hrs. paved the way for countless interracial buddy cop flicks since, up to and including Hill’s own Bullet to the Head earlier this year. If we’re being honest, Baltasar Kormákur’s 2 Guns beats present-day Hill at his own game, what with its endless banter, bloody shootouts and requisite quadruple-crosses. This is a cable staple in the making, and I do mean that as a compliment.”

“Wahlberg all but walks around the film with a paper umbrella behind one of his ears,” writes Wesley Morris at Grantland. “You rarely get to see a pair of stars mired in this much danger but playing the whole thing as if they were on vacation. I don’t respect the movie’s easy cynicism about drugs and crime and government corruption, but I do respect its stars’ kind of ‘let’s not give a damn.'”

At Vulture, Bilge Ebiri grants that “there have been lots of ‘guy movies’ this summer—in that there haven’t been many movies for women—but this one feels guy-ier than most. It has no four-quadrant ambitions, no crossover-hungry bloat. If guys didn’t exist, 2 Guns would have to invent them.”

2 Guns works because it’s essentially several riffs on familiar material,” writes Odie Henderson at “Cliché is not a bad thing if it’s done right. Like a good jazz improvisation, 2 Guns leads to the same place but not the way you may expect. The tone, pacing and staging of the action sequences are pleasantly surprising. This is a slower, more meditative film than advertised, finding time for quirkiness and humorous banter alongside the explosions.”

Update, 8/6:2 Guns presents us with a buddy comedy without resorting to the ersatz Abbot and Costello (superego and id) dynamics of The Heat or the grotesque sight of Ryan Reynolds seeking Jeff Bridges’ Baby Boomer approval in R.I.P.D.,” writes the Film Doctor, who then lists “the ways 2 Guns proved a pleasure.”

Mark Wahlberg


Updates, 8/8: “Kormákur offers a hint of a political statement, in this case about the inherent potential for corruption whenever competing government agencies are operating in international territory,” grants Ben Kenigsberg at the AV Club. “But it doesn’t quite make it. On almost every level, 2 Guns is content to be as flavorless and forgettable as its title.”

On the other hand, Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly: “The most purely entertaining popcorn picture of the summer, director Baltasar Kormákur’s 2 Guns is first and foremost an exercise in star wattage…. The studio should have scrapped the generic title and just called it Charisma: The Motion Picture.”

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