The buddy cop flick is a time-tested formula, but its success generally rests heavily on the shoulders of whoever plays the two inevitably mismatched partners.
In the case of “2 Guns,” Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg prove more than capable of carrying the load.
The film often stretches believability, but it’s energetic and fast-moving, and the charisma and chemistry of the two stars mask most of the flaws.
Washington and Wahlberg play undercover law-enforcement officers from different organizations —that’s not a spoiler; it’s evident in every commercial and trailer — neither of whom knows the other’s true identity.
Washington is Bobby, a smooth-talking DEA agent. Wahlberg is Stig, a naval intelligence officer who acts like a smart-mouthed knucklehead but is smarter than he seems.
Both agents are, separately, trying to infiltrate Mexican drug dealer Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). To do this, they have to rob — don’t ask why — a small-town New Mexico bank.
Instead of incriminating evidence, though, the duo come away with a mountain of cash that everyone seems to want.
There are plenty of bullets, one-liners and double crosses as Bobby and Stig join forces — Bobby reluctantly, Stig with gusto — to thwart bad guys. Washington and Wahlberg spar amusingly and handle the action with ease.
The film also benefits from some above-average villains. In addition to the scheming drug kingpin played by Olmos, there’s a clean-cut but crooked Navy officer played by James Marsden (“X-Men”) and, best of all, Bill Paxton’s sadistic and amusingly over-the-top CIA operative.
Paula Patton (“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”) is on hand to complicate things as Washington’s ex-girlfriend and fellow DEA agent, though as is often the case when so much testosterone is being thrown around, her character is underutilized and disappears for stretches of screen time.