2 Guns: Action Comedy, Starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg

Denzel Washington

After portraying a series of intense characters in recent years, Washington was searching for some humor in his next role. He found that in agent Bobby Trench. “I was looking to depart from heavier roles, and when I read this script it really made me laugh,” the performer reports. “Bobby does whatever is necessary to get the job done. He says there is no code; you do whatever you got to do, whatever it takes. I think he is an honest cop, but he doesn’t live by the honor codes.”

Working on both sides of the law for so many years has allowed Bobby to effortlessly maneuver between the worlds. Washington explains: “‘I-know-a-guy Bobby,’ my undercover character, can get anything for you that you need: a ’63 Chevy, a ’59 bottle of wine, a condo in the Himalayas. Whatever it is, he knows a guy; that’s his modus operandi.” Still, Bobby’s not beyond being duped himself. “Bobby and Stig are lying to each other for half the picture. I’m not what I told him I am, and he’s not what he told me he is.”

Partnering these two performers was an exciting prospect for Kormákur, who initially suggested to the team that Washington’s Bobby would be the perfect foil for Wahlberg’s Stig. “I hadn’t seen Denzel play light,” says the filmmaker. “But the comedy in 2 Guns is based on reality, like DeNiro in Midnight Run. Denzel has such an immense presence, but actors with good drama sense have good timing. That timing is everything when it comes to comedy.”

For his part, Emmett was thrilled that Washington signed onto the project. He says: “We really wanted Denzel to be a part of this, and we pushed to present the project to him. Once he said, ‘Yes,’ we knew both Mark and Denzel would make for an explosive combination!”

Wahlberg was glad that the stars finally aligned for the two men to work together. Discussing Washington, he states: “We have great chemistry. We’ve known each other for a while, and this was the perfect piece of material for both of us to show a different side of ourselves. People would be very surprised to see how playful Denzel can be. I remember shooting our first scene, and every take I would do something completely different. He said, ‘Oh, I see what’s happening here,’ and he jumped right on board.” Wahlberg admits that he had a bit of an ulterior motive, and that was to get Washington to laugh. “There’s nothing better than seeing Denzel smile. Usually you get to see that once or twice in a movie; in this film, we see it a lot.”

Paula Patton

The only other thing Bobby can’t get straight is his relationship with his control officer, Agent Deb Rees. Portrayed by Paula Patton—who reunites with Washington for the first time since their pairing in Tony Scott’s 2006 sci-fi thriller, Déjà Vu—Deb is torn between her feelings for Bobby and her desire to do right by herself. Patton shares graphic novelist

Grant’s take on one of the story’s key themes: “I’ve always had a theory that the line between a crook and a good guy is a very fine one. Still, it’s challenging to work undercover and to pretend to be a crook. What is so great about 2 Guns is that it’s rough, rugged, shoot-’em-up action with a bit of romance. But, more importantly, it also has a sense of humor about itself.”

The attraction between Deb and Bobby is palpable in the border interrogation room, where Bobby is grilled by his handler and Marlon Jessup (played by ROBERT JOHN BURKE of television’s Rescue Me and Army Wives) about Bobby’s last encounter with Papi Greco. Their on-again/off-again relationship is best summed up by Bobby’s bedroom comment to Deb that he “really meant to love her.”

Washington is quick to remind the audience that, even though Deb is more subdued than some of Patton’s other roles, his co-star is the same ass-kicker from Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol. He commends: “Paula’s the toughest one in the bunch. She has a pretty face, but there’s a tough element in there. She loves competition and fighting, and was always ready to jump right into it. She’s, I dare say, one of the guys.”

During preproduction, Kormákur worked with Masters on developing the character beyond being just a femme fatale. Recalls the screenwriter: “Balt wanted to create a real humanizing context for Deb, where we understood what it did to her to watch drug dealers walk every day for 10 years—the feeling that you are fighting an avalanche with a teaspoon—and the choices it can lead you to make. She may be duplicitous, but just like the men, she’s doing it from a place where she feels justified in her behavior.”

Throughout the casting process, the director brought on actors to play against typecast. That was the case with the character of Manny “Papi” Greco, the powerful drug cartel leader whom both Bobby and Stig are attempting to capture. Just because Greco has to make deals with other devils in order to get his product across the border, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t bristle at the inequity. Still, he bides his time, plays the game and pays off a mysterious partner at the Tres Cruces Savings & Loan.

Edward James Olmos

Olmos, who portrays the dangerous drug lord, was taken by the powerful script. He commends: “It’s a very well-written action-comedy between two ‘buddies’ that connects with the public. What drew me to the story is the humoristic, but very honest, look at the contributions of different parts of the American government in the actual drug situation.”

Villains live on both sides of the 2 Guns drug war, and nowhere is that more evident than with Earl, a shadowy CIA affiliate whom everyone calls “God’s S.O.B.” Earl is fond of preaching to his victims, meting out punishment to the “guilty, ignorant or unlucky” as he deems fit. Earl is played by action-film staple Bill Paxton, who discusses his interest in the meaty role: “When I read the script, I was struck with its central theme of honor. I liked the idea of all these supposedly honorable men who are loyal to these supposedly honorable organizations, but at the end of the day the only two men in the movie who have true honor are Bobby and Stig—because they’re honorable to each other.”

After the bank heist goes south and our heroes take $40 million more than they intended out of the CIA’s pockets, Earl arrives on the scene to “properly incentivize” anyone in his way and set things right. Everyone, including the FBI, scurries out of his path, especially when Earl starts playing Russian roulette with his prey. “He may or may not work for the CIA,” says Paxton. “Earl’s likely an independent contractor that they have to rely on occasionally when they’re in a jam. He’s somebody they don’t want to call up because he creates a lot of paperwork for them. I describe him as a ‘human bloodhound.’”

The man pulling Stig’s strings is none other than Quince, a spit-and-polish naval officer and the undercover agent’s superior at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. Stig considers Quince above suspicion, but Quince might not be the straight arrow he appears. Action-film veteran James Marsden discusses his reasons for joining the film: “There’s a great sense of fun to the action, and the tone of the movie is similar to Lethal Weapon.”

Because Quince holds Stig’s future over his head, the undercover agent bristles whenever his superior is around. Marsden explains their dynamic: “They joined the Navy around the same time, but my character shot up the ranks through the academy, aced every test. He’s a bit of a sociopath and very into his power; he’s the puppet master, the intellectual behind the plot. Quince has got his muscle behind him, but there are times when he gets his guns out and isn’t afraid to get his uniform dirty.”

Rounding out the principal cast of 2 Guns is Fred Ward, who portrays Navy Adm. Tuwey, the only person whom Stig believes can get to the bottom of the cover-up. Ward brought a personal spin on the role; he had served as an enlisted airman when he was a young man. Discussing his process with Kormákur, Ward offers: “Balt was very detailed with me during the shoot. The admiral’s speech to Stig is a long one, and Balt was very patient. What I like about directors like him is that they’ll pick up my ideas and give me theirs; it’s a respectful conversation.”