True to its name, the new action movie "2 Guns" boasts considerable firepower, with charismatic actors Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg in the lead roles. According to many film critics, however, Washington and Wahlberg's chemistry is overshadowed by a plot that is both too familiar and too convoluted, and the film ultimately misses the mark.
The Times' Kenneth Turan writes, "This self-consciously nihilistic action movie is one slick piece of business as well as something of a double-edged sword." The film manages to be "briefly diverting" as director Baltasar Kormakur and his two stars "use style and attitude to put a different spin on traditional genre plot dynamics in a story of misplaced drug money and mistaken identity."
On the other hand, Turan says, the plot "is so tricky that events all but evaporate as soon as they happen. Though individual set pieces are well done, the film inevitably leaves an empty taste behind it once it's done." Things only get worse "when [the lead characters'] non-winning personalities and the film's exploitative attitude toward women and violence are added into the mix."
USA Today's Claudia Puig calls "2 Guns" a "brutal, complicated and sporadically funny movie that still seems slight." Although she says that "the saving grace of the film … is the chemistry between Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg," she also echoes Turan in writing, "The ultra-complicated plot doesn't mask the fact that this is a cynical and derivative movie. … At least it's briskly paced. But its story and gritty look give off a feeling of cinematic deja vu."
Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post similarly describes "2 Guns" as "a cliche-ridden action comedy … in which the chemistry between the two stars packs far more heat than the explosions." While "Wahlberg and Washington prove yet again why they’re among the most beloved male stars today," the film's "reckless gunplay is offensive" and "the verbal repartee is too often stale." In the end, "'2 Guns' feels like it’s all been done before, whether by John Woo, Michael Bay or any number of their CGI-happy clones."
Ty Burr of the Boston Globe says the film starts strong — "Because Washington and Wahlberg are pros and because they appear to genuinely enjoy each other’s company, '2 Guns' rollicks along nicely for a half-hour or so" — only to start piling on "manic chase scenes, pummelings, and shoot-outs. The movie has style but increasingly little sense." Burr sums up the movie as "an Elmore Leonard-style crime caper minus some of Leonard’s wit and all of his brains."
The Village Voice's Stephanie Zacharek opines, "The problem with so many current action movies, this one included, is that once you've seen one, you can't help feeling you've seen them all … '2 Guns,' with its hypercomplicated plot and semi-gritty, just-rolled-out-of-bed visuals, comes off as similar to 1,001 things we've already seen. The movie's pleasures, whatever they may be, stem from a kind of summer-diversion deja vu."
Not every critic finds the film's familiarity off-putting, however. The New York Times' Manohla Dargis calls "2 Guns" "a slick, slippery thriller that taps into the anarchic playfulness that made the best American action flicks of the 1980s and '90s pop," and she declares Washington and Wahlberg "one of the better odd couples to bond and bicker since Mel met Danny." Acknowledging that "this twisty film grows increasingly complicated and preposterous," Dargis says, "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."
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