Volume is a key element of any action flick, typically the decibel kind. 2 Guns is different, not in the din of its gunfire but the volume of bad guys being shot. Quantity, in effect, equals quality here.
2 Guns bundles a quartet of tried and true deadly forces — a drug cartel plus crooked CIA, DEA and military types — and puts them in the crosshairs of weapons toted by the eminently charismatic team of Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. That means everything gets multiplied beyond the usual shoot-'em-up: wisecracks, ricochets, close calls, everything. Nothing succeeds like good-humored excess.
Of course, setting up all these adversaries in sensible fashion is a difficult task. Director Baltasar Kormakur and screenwriter Blake Masters, working off a series of graphic novels, may or may not have done it satisfactorily. Honestly, 2 Guns is too fun to notice any holes besides those being blown in people and property. I'd need to see it again to judge how well the caper holds together, and I wouldn't mind.
Washington plays Bobby Trench, a cool customer plotting a small town bank robbery with caffeinated Michael "Stig" Stigman (Wahlberg). What neither knows is that the other is working undercover: Bobby for the DEA and Stig for U.S. Navy Intelligence. They're both on the trail of drug kingpin Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos) and the bank reportedly houses $3 million in drug money.
What confuses Bobby, Stig and the audience for a while is why their robbery nets more than $43 million. It turns out that the CIA is somehow involved, with a sweaty, sadistic agent named Earl (Bill Paxton) leading the pack. The Navy, represented by so-helpful-he-can't-be-trusted Quince (James Marsden), also wants the cash. Papi isn't happy, either. A lot of shoehorning and short cuts are required to fit all this skullduggery into one movie but it mostly works.
It's best to forget the plot and simply enjoy this bumpy, bullet-ridden ride. Washington and Wahlberg make such a wonderful team — a modern Butch and Sundance in patter and aim — that you wonder why Hollywood never thought of this pairing before. Each character has an identifying quirk: for Bobby, a collection of straw fedoras; for Stig, a punctuating wink. Mostly the actors are just having fun and it's contagious.
2 Guns is a movie based on smart callbacks and sly flip-flops of loyalty, regularly interrupted by spasms of well-staged violence. The perplexing nature of Masters' plot takes effort to sort through but sets up a terrific finale, literally a Mexican standoff between everyone wanting the money, with Bobby and Stig back-to-back in the middle, spraying gunfire in all directions. It's a dynamic sequence that, like the rest of 2 Guns, proves overkill can be amusing.
Steve Persall can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.