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Ammunition shortage: ‘2 Guns’ coasts on its stars’ charisma

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Guns for hire: Washington and Wahlberg make stuff go boom.

Two and a half stars

2 Guns Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton. Directed by Baltasar Kormákur. Rated R. Opens Friday.

It’s a good thing that Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg make for such an entertaining pair in the action movie 2 Guns, because otherwise it’s pretty much a mess. Based on the graphic novel by Las Vegas-based writer Steven Grant (click here for our interivew), 2 Guns follows Washington’s DEA agent Bobby Trench and Wahlberg’s Naval intelligence officer Michael “Stig” Stigman, both working undercover and under the impression that the other is a low-level criminal chump. When the two team up to rob a bank (each expecting the other to go down for it), they end up in over their heads, eventually chased by a competing lineup of bad guys, including a Mexican drug kingpin (Edward James Olmos), a sadistic government operative (Bill Paxton) and a corrupt Naval commander (James Marsden).

All of these antagonists have their own sometimes complementary, sometimes contradictory agendas, centered around the $43 million that Bobby and Stig unexpectedly made away with in their heist. The requisite twists and turns are both convoluted and perfunctory, and there’s no shock or excitement when one character double-crosses another, or turns out to not be what he seemed. Director Baltasar Kormákur (who worked with Wahlberg on last year’s similarly meat-and-potatoes thriller Contraband) and screenwriter Blake Masters add some extra shootouts, explosions and car chases to the source material, and change the ending in a fairly significant way. But the structure is basically the same, and the changes neither improve nor detract from the appeal.

What saves 2 Guns from being entirely forgettable is the chemistry between its stars, who turn the fairly generic noble, wronged men into a lively comic team, bouncing off each other with ease and making Masters’ sometimes weak banter crackle. Although Bobby and Stig are, as is typical of current action-movie heroes, essentially invincible, there’s a certain entertainment value to seeing them get consistently outmaneuvered and suckered by their adversaries, as they constantly have to play catch-up to figure out where the money came from, where it’s gone and where it should be going. Those moments of human vulnerability eventually get drowned out by the bombastic action, but they point to a witty soul hidden somewhere in this otherwise nondescript action movie.

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