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Movie review: Stars Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg fired up in ‘2 Guns’

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This image released by Universal Pictures shows Paula Patton, left, and Denzel Washington in a scene from "2 Guns." (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Patti Perret)

By Sean P. Means

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Aug 02 2013 08:13AM
Updated Feb 14, 2014 11:31PM

A buddy-cop movie on steroids, "2 Guns" fires off smart-alecky one-liners and bullets at equal rates — as the stars make a convoluted and overwritten script work.

Bobby (Denzel Washington) and Stig (Mark Wahlberg) are introduced as criminals working together to curry favor with a Mexican drug lord, Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). What neither man knows is that the other is working undercover for the U.S. government. Bobby is a DEA agent trying to bring down Greco’s cartel, while Stig works for Navy intelligence and is under orders to bring Bobby down.

When the two rob a bank where they think Greco stashes his drug proceeds, they discover a whole lot more money than they expected. They also find that they have been double-crossed and set up to take the rap for the robbery and worse. That’s when a shadowy and flamboyant figure, Earl (Bill Paxton), shows up demanding his money and leaving a string of corpses. With no one else to turn to, Bobby and Stig reluctantly team up to clear their names.

Also in the mix are Stig’s superior, Cmdr. Quince (James Marsden), and Bobby’s DEA colleague and sometime lover Deb (Paula Patton).

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur, who directed Wahlberg in the smart 2012 thriller "Contraband," creates some effective action set pieces — including an over-the-top finale that includes exploding cars, helicopter machine guns and a stampede of bulls.

The plot-heavy script, an adaptation of Steven Grant’s graphic-novel series, has erratic tone shifts and too much clever-to-be-clever dialogue. It’s as if screenwriter Blake Masters, a TV writer making his movie debut, swallowed the Shane Black action-movie playbook and the Quentin Tarantino dialogue generator and is regurgitating pieces of both all over the place.

That said, Washington’s deceptively easygoing charm and Wahlberg’s fast-talking pugnacity make for an entertainingly sweet-and-sour partnership. The one-liners coming out of their mouths may be phony, but these actors infuse them with a sense of fun among the mayhem.

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