The violent crime caper is leaving reviewers divided over whether it's sadistic or just summer fun
Critics are divided over whether or "2 Guns" is a shot of summer adrenaline or a twisty thriller that takes one too many turns.
The action thriller stars Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington as two undercover agents with motivations as shaky as their conflicted loyalties. Directed by Baltasar Kormákur, the Icelandic action master who previously teamed with Wahlberg on "Contraband," the film overflows with double and triple crosses interspersed with flurries of gunplay. It opens Friday.
Most reviewers hailed the stars' chemistry, but were more lukewarm about the film's plot. The movie received a decent 60 percent "fresh" rating on critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, which is a much better showing than the 13 percent "rotten" rating its main box office competitor "Smurfs 2" suffered at the hands of reviewers.
TheWrap's Alonso Duralde gave Wahlberg and Washington credit for their banter, but said the film had trouble maintaining a consistent tone. He also implied it would have benefited from less testosterone.
"Among its many crimes, '2 Guns' is steeped in masculine panic, from the constant references to male genitalia and what characters plan to do with other people’s junk to Paula Patton getting saddled with perhaps the most gratuitous nude scene by a major actress since Halle Berry in 'Swordfish,'" Duralde wrote. "The camera actually starts on her breasts and moves its way up to her eyes, as though Kormákur was ordering a basket of wings from a Hooters waitress."
Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times groused that the film could have used a little more nutritional value to go with its sleekly produced scenes of chaos and carnage.
"Slickness can take you only so far," Turan wrote.
"Though individual set pieces are well done, the film inevitably leaves an empty taste behind it once it's done," he added.
Over-familiarity bred contempt for Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post, who wrote that "2 Guns" is derivative of the cinematic oeuvre of such masters of destruction as Michael Bay.
"Along with the slow-motion gun fights, over-the-top truck chases, brutal torture involving a baseball bat and an angry bull, and an over-arching tone of crass cynicism, '2 Guns' feels like it’s all been done before," Hornaday wrote.
The movie's plot twists itself like a pretzel, but the twists and turns aren't thrilling. They're just incoherent, according to the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern.
"When does banter turn to blather?" Morgenstern queried. "In the case of this action adventure, which was directed by Baltasar Kormákur, it's when you realize that keeping track of the barely fathomable plot isn't worth the bother."
All the preposterousness didn't faze Manohla Dargis. The New York Times critic compared the film and its pop pleasures to the kind of '80s action flicks that "True Romance's" Tony Scott and "Lethal Weapon's" Shane Black routinely spun out.
"Mr. Kormakur sets and keeps up a fast rather than frantic pace that never runs the movie off the rails even when the story nearly does," Dargis wrote. "Much as he did in his last movie, 'Contraband,' another thriller with Mr. Wahlberg, Mr. Kormakur has put his imprimatur on a pulp fiction that easily could have become another generic diversion instead of a fine genre one."
That pulpy sensibility is what appealed to Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty, who said the film is a summer-time gem that he seemed surprised that he enjoyed.
"All I will say is that after months of big-screen bloat and bombast, '2 Guns' is a much-needed reminder that the best summer surprises can come when you least expect them," Nashawaty wrote.