2 GUNS: Washington & Wahlberg Deliver the Best Action Movie I've Seen in Years [REVIEW - ★★★½]

I'm old enough to remember a time when action movies were the best thing on the big screen. Quality action movies aimed at adults. Those with a good balance of sprightliness and nail-biting tension. They've become a rare commodity. Nowadays most action fare leans on heavy sci-fi, fantasy or comedy elements to draw in audiences. Thankfully, 2 Guns doesn't need to go that route. It's a tough guy action movie through and through. Not that faux-tough guy stuff where everyone needs to wear a wife beater and pose for the camera every two minutes to appear macho. Old school, charismatic Paul Kersey/Popeye Doyle tough guys.

The story focuses on undercover DEA Special Agent Bobby Trench (Washington) and undercover Naval Intelligence Officer Michael 'Stigs' Stigman (Wahlberg) who for the past six months have been operating as gophers for a Mexican drug cartel run by Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). The caveat: neither is aware of the other's real job. When a bank heist goes wrong, Bobby and Stigs are cut loose by their agencies' handlers -- James Marsden's Navy Commander Quince and Paula Patton's DEA Agent Deb -- and have to escape being hunted down by mysterious Southern lawman Earl (Bill Paxton) who will plow through anyone to recover the stolen money.

The last time I was wowed by this genre was with the fourth Mission: Impossible movie, and before that when I watched the phenomenal Indonesian import The Raid. Both of those were in 2011. That's a long time to stomach a hunger for this kind of flick. 2 Guns more than satisfied it, and had me leaving the theater with a big smile on my face (only the third time that's happened this year). It's straightforward and unpretentious and works on every level its presented on. Likable protagonists? Check. Supporting characters that matter to the story? Check. Villains that actually DO bad things instead of just talk about them? Check. Well thought out, nail-biting action set pieces that don't overstay their welcome? Check. Bill Fucking Paxton? Check. I could go on and on. Most importantly, the chemistry between Washington & Wahlberg is undeniable. Their banter is funny because it's not forced, it builds out of a believable, lighthearted relationship.

Opinions on movies obviously differ but if you don't have even a little bit of fun and laugh your ass off watching this one I'd consider you pretty a joyless person. But if you like smart, fast-paced, R-rated actiony goodness you won't want to miss it. Don't let the generic marketing campaign fool you, 2 Guns throws the gauntlet down to every other action movie this year. Good luck to any that try to pick it up.

3.5 Stars

Academy Award winner Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg lead an all-star cast in 2 Guns, an explosive action film that tracks two operatives from competing bureaus who are forced on the run together. But there is a big problem with their unique alliance: Neither knows that the other is an undercover federal agent.

Directed by Baltasar Kormáku and also starring Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, Fred Ward, James Marsden and Edward James Olmos, 2 Guns is scheduled for theatrical release on August 2nd, 2013.