★★★☆☆In what's been a difficult year for summer blockbusters, it seems Hollywood is returning to the venerable set up of the good ol' buddy cop comedy for cheap thrills and fast bucks; firstly with Paul Feig's The Heat, which opened last week, and now 2 Guns (2013) - a brisk, unpretentious crime caper from Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur. The sub-genre lives and dies by the chemistry of its leads, and with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg - who are always devilishly pleasing to watch, especially in comedy roles - Kormákur ensures that his own contribution is more Midnight Run (1988) than Samurai Cop (1989).
Lethal Weapon duo as two mismatched friends: Wahlberg as garrulous tough nut Stig, a definite nod to Gibson's Riggs; and Washington as smooth operator Bobby, a sexier version of Glover's retiring family man. The difference this time, however, is that they are both undercover bank robbers. Bobby is a DEA agent and Stig is a Navy intelligence officer, with neither of them knowing this about the other. They've both been assigned to steal $3 million in cash belonging to Mexican drug lord Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos), but things are soon complicated by military types and government officials (including a terrifically oleaginous Bill Paxton).
Based on the 2008 BOOM! Studios comic series by writer Steven Grant and illustrator Mateus Santolouco, the hyper-convoluted plot of 2 Guns is fluidly articulated by Kormákur, who has demonstrated a gift for laying out complex action sequences with a perfect mixture of chaos and coherence, most notably in Contraband (for which he first teamed up with Wahlberg). 2 Guns is an altogether brighter film, however; a Tex-Mex neo-western that embraces its dusty, southern setting, which stands out commendably amidst all the blood thanks to cinematographer Oliver Wood.
If Kormákur does manage to add something to the well-worn 1980s buddy cop comedy, the problems here remain familiar. The solitary female character comes in the shape (which we get to admire frequently) of Paula Patton's Deb - a female DEA agent and Bobby's part-time lover - whose only meaningful actions revolve around her relationships with men. Perhaps that's to be expected of 2 Guns, where so much reliance is placed on male banter. Thankfully - and this is not to be taken for granted - it is at the very least inoffensive, and at times genuinely funny and charming.