2 Guns

January and August. The two months that movie studios view as the garbage disposals of the cinematic year. Television has Saturday nights (and pretty much all summer), and the movies have January and August.

So imagine my surprise when August actually churned out a better-than-decent movie.

Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg star in 2 Guns, the latest from Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur. (His last U.S. feature was Wahlberg’s better-than-average Contraband, which also hit theaters in a “trash” month– January 2012).

Built and packaged like a mash-up of B-movie sensibilities and Coen Brothers style, 2 Guns is better than it has any right to be. And if anyone else had been cast in the leads other than Washington and Wahlberg, it could have easily been destined for a short life as a straight-to-DVD release, followed by a few obscure weeks on late-night Showtime.

But thankfully we get not only two of the biz’s better actors, but two who serve as perfect foils for each other.

Washington is Bobby Trench, an undercover DEA agent who thinks he’s working with a dealer to bust Mexican kingpin Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). The dealer, though, is really Michael Stigman (Wahlberg), an undercover Naval Intelligence Officer, who thinks Trench is the dealer. Oops.

Before they discover their respective true identities, though, the pair try to steal the few million dollars Greco keeps in a local bank– only to discover more than forty million dollars actually there. It would all be a hilarious comedy of errors if the bodies weren’t starting to pile up by the minute.

Enter the shady and cruel Earl (Bill Paxton), whose money Trench and Stig really stole. Slowly everyone starts figuring out who everyone else is (and there are more than a few surprises along the way), and Trench and Stig realize they have to work together to get out of their mess.

Kormákur keeps the action zipping right along, deftly cutting back and forth between all the involved parties, whether the scene involves a loud car chase or a nice, quiet game of Russian Roulette. What could have been a confusing, illogical mess actually ends up making sense by the time the dust settles. And the script by TV writer Blake Masters, based on the graphic novels by Steven Grant, takes full advantage of Washington and Wahlberg’s abilities (and charisma); both actors (along with Olmos and Paxton) expertly bring the characters to life.

2 Guns may not seem like quintessential hot weather fare, but it winds up being a nice, refreshing last sip of summer.

4/5 stars