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'2 Guns': Denzel Washington & Mark Wahlberg Flop?

2 Guns Denzel Washington Mark Wahlberg'2 Guns' weekend box office: Mark Wahlberg, Denzel Washington pairing disappointing?

A limp “low $20 million” range, is what 2 Guns U.S. distributor Universal claims it's expecting at the North American box office from the first-ever pairing of Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg – as momentous a cinematic occasion, if the American media is to believed, as the first pairing of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? back in 1962. Of course, Universal's lowball figure is an excuse for the studio to claim, “Omigod! 2 Guns has performed way beyond what any and all of us were expecting!” – as long as the Washington / Wahlberg combo brings in $25 million or more. (Image: Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg in 2 Guns.)

Well, Universal apparently made a good p.r. movie, as the R-rated, Baltasar Kormákur-directed 2 Guns collected a barely acceptable $10 million from 3,306 North American theaters on Friday according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Box-office pundits were expecting that Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg would lure enough asses into movie-theater seats to generate around $30-35 million by Sunday evening. Barring a major Saturday surge and strong Sunday business, that's not likely to happen. Current weekend box office estimates have 2 Guns topping at around $28-29 million. That's not good news for the (reportedly) $61 million action comedy ($80-$90 million minus tax rebates) – not including marketing and distribution expenses, and box-office-related contractual obligations with the film's top talent. (Sunday update: According to studio estimates, 2 Guns collected a less-than-expected $27.36 million.)

If the current 2 Guns weekend box office estimates are on target, there's a good chance the first Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg pairing may turn out to be their last as well.

Denzel Washington: Major domestic box office draw?

Now, one thing that's good to remember: although Denzel Washington is considered a major box office draw in the United States, in the last ten years only two Denzel Washington movies have raked in more than $100 million in the U.S. and Canada; in both instances, Washington was paired up with another well-known male lead. Ridley Scott's American Gangster, co-starring Russell Crowe, took in $130.16 million in late 2007, while Daniel Espinosa's Safe House, co-starring Ryan Reynolds, cumed at $126.37 million in early 2012. If inflation is taken into account, Washington has only one other above-$100 million domestic hit since 2005: Spike Lee's 2006 heist thriller Inside Man, also starring Clive Owen and featuring Jodie Foster, which earned an adjusted $110 million.

Also worth remembering is that Denzel Washington – and Mark Wahlberg, for that matter – aren't major box office draws internationally. According to the latest figures found at Box Office Mojo, Washington's Flight grossed only $68 million internationally vs. $93.77 million in North America; Safe House grossed $81.72 million vs. $126.37 million; and The Book of Eli $62.27 million vs. $94.83 million. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and Unstoppable performed slightly better internationally, but those had Washington paired up with the likes of, respectively, John Travolta and Star Trek's Chris Pine. A second name above the title helps. Depending on the name.

The only recent Mark Wahlberg movie to perform better internationally than domestically is Ted. If Box Office Mojo's figures are fully up to date, Contraband, The Fighter, and The Other Guys were all international box office disappointments. 2 Guns will likely not change either star's box office pattern – unlike what happened with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford 51 years ago, as What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? became a huge box office hit, and a cultural landmark to boot.

2 Guns currently has a mediocre 44 percent approval rating and 5.6/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics.

Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg topline 2 Guns cast

Besides Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, the 2 Guns cast includes Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, James Marsden, Fred Ward, Edward James Olmos, Robert John Burke, Greg Sproles, Patrick Fischler, Edgar Arreola, Derek Solorsano, and Tim Bell. Based on Steve Grant's graphic novel, the 2 Guns screenplay is credited to Blake Masters (the TV series Law & Order: LA, Brotherhood).

The Icelandic-born Baltasar Kormákur's previous credits include the Mark Wahlberg domestic sleeper hit Contraband; The Deep, Iceland's selection for the 2012 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award; and the quirky 2000 comedy 101 Reykjavik, starring Victoria Abril and Hilmir Snær Guðnason – a movie that feels universes away from the multiplex-friendly 2 Guns.

Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg 2 Guns photo: Universal Pictures.

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