Review: This Means War
PLOT: CIA operatives FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are regulated to desk duty after a firefight with a terrorist leaves a pile of dead bodies and bad press for the agency. Now free to think about their love lives, the lonely Tuck gives internet dating a try, where he meets Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) - a lonely thirty-something businesswoman just out of a bad relationship. The two have instant chemistry, and Tuck falls hard. Only problem- FDR has also met, and fell for Lauren, and now the two best friends are pitted against each other in a race to win her heart.
REVIEW: THIS MEANS WAR is the reason why filmgoers should be wary anytime they hear someone use the term “high-concept”. Certainly, THIS MEANS WAR fits the bill, with Hollywood suits probably thinking the movie going public would eat up a story about two action heroes falling for the same girl. Basically, it’s the SPY VS. SPY film we never got.
However, just because the concept is ambitious and sounds good when boiled down to a single phrase (two spies fall for the same girl) doesn’t mean the film is any good. Obviously everyone involved was so in love with their “high concept” that they figured that would be enough to get people’s butts into seats. Too bad they forgot to make a good movie.
THIS MEANS WAR is a totally brain dead mega budget studio comedy, which is maybe louder than your average Jennifer Aniston or Katherine Heigl comedy, but just as one-note. Somehow, director McG, who’s working from a script that counts Simon Kinberg among the writers- with this borrowing more than a little from his own MR & MRS SMITH , managed to draft three dynamic leads to star in the film, but this is far below what their talents warrant.
First, there are our two heroes, Tom Hardy and Chris Pine, each of whom seems to be on the brink of stardom. The brooding Hardy seems like a particularly odd choice for a romantic comedy, and while he’s more relaxed in the role than I thought he would be- it’s jarring seeing him a film like this. What’s hilarious is that the tattooed, muscled Hardy is supposed to be playing the sensitive, shy one- but the role is an odd fit to say the least. Pine is probably less of a stretch for a movie like this, and the role isn’t all that different from similar parts he played in films like THE PRINCESS DIARIES 2, and JUST MY LUCK- albeit with more gunfights.
Both Pine and Hardy are fine here, and gamely do their best, without either giving off the impression that they’re phoning it in (they don’t suffer from Gerard Butler-itis). Both are just about to hit it big, and it seems like they’re aware of that fact, so they try hard- and that certainly keeps THIS MEANS WAR from being more painful than it already is. Both have one or two good scenes, with a standout being a funny scene where Hardy takes Witherspoon paintballing, and uses his CIA skills to decimate a group of twelve year olds. It’s a stupid scene, but also one of the few funny ones in the film.
Witherspoon is probably the one playing the closest to her comfort zone, but I think it’s obvious to anyone that’s been watching her career that she’s served better in higher-brow fare like WALK THE LINE, or WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, than stuff like this. However, it’s still better than HOW DO YOU KNOW (hard to be worse). I’ve always had a bit of a crush on Witherspoon, and she looks phenomenal, and does her best to play a likable character to not make it too much of a stretch that Pine and Hardy could be fighting over her.
Being a shitty rom-com, we also get the token “best-friend/comic relief”, here played by Chelsea Handler. Handler’s funny on her talk show, but she’s horribly served by the patchwork script (the work of at least three writers). Every time she opens her mouth to spout off a line that’s supposed to be funny will have you cringe in embarrassment.
Being a McG film, you can safely assume that THIS MEANS WAR has its share of explosions and gunfights, with the action here being very much in line with his CHARLIE’S ANGELS films. This means the action scenes are loud, stupid, and cartoonish. The final car chase is one of the dumbest action scenes I’ve seen in a while, with our heroes leveling a poorly disguised Vancouver.
Another problem with THIS MEANS WAR was that it all felt too familiar, like I had seen it all before. And sure enough, I have- back when it was called TRUE LIES, and it was, ya know- good. Yup, three writers, a multi-million dollar director, and a huge budget, and all they come up with is a movie that’s effectively the second act of TRUE LIES (when Arnie suspects Jamie Lee Curtis is cheating on him) stretched to ninety minutes, only not as funny.
Suffice to say, I really ended up disliking THIS MEANS WAR, with it really being one of the worst recent examples of big-budget, filmmaking-by-committee. There’s nothing here you haven’t seen done (better) before. While all three lead actors are usually worth watching, even they can’t save this idiotic comedy-actioner.
|Extra Tidbit:||Reese and Pine's characters meet in a packed video store. When's the last time you saw a packed video store? Are there any even left in the states? In Canada there are barely any, to the extent that they're trying to disguise a retail HMV as a rental shop here.|