In the new action comedy This Means War, two CIA operatives played by Chris Pine (Star Trek) and Tom Hardy (Warrior) have their partnership tested when they both attempt to win the heart of the same woman played by Reese Witherspoon.
Directed by McG (Charlie’s Angels), This Means War opens with the introduction of agents FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy). The dynamic duo are on a secretive mission at a high class party intending to carry our their orders in the most discreet and covert fashion possible. But when Russian baddie Ivan (Mike Dopund) shows up and recognizes the threat, bullets and bodies begin to fly across the screen and FDR and Tuck take battle with Ivan’s henchmen atop a skyscraper’s helicopter pad. By the time audiences have found their proper fit in their theatre seat, Ivan’s brother will have fallen from the building top onto oncoming traffic and Ivan will have parachuted to safety.
The movie then takes us to Los Angeles where we meet Lauren (Witherspoon). Laruen is a beautiful and successful woman that we are forced to believe has issues finding a man. That is, until her sister (played by talk show host Chelsea Handler) puts Lauren’s profile up on an internet dating site. It is through the internet that lonely Tuck finds Lauren and sets up a date. But in true Three’s Company fashion, that same day Lauren meets FDR and soon she is dating both partners unable to choose between the two personalities (FDR is the rich womanizer, Tuck is the sweet British guy).
For the next hour, the two friends and partners will simultaneously date Lauren with a ‘Best Guy Wins’ mentality. Neither willing to back off, both will exploit their CIA connections and resources to track, follow, spy on and disrupt each other’s interactions with Lauren in an attempt to be the one that finally wins her heart.
Through the whole mean-spirited wooing you will completely forget that Ivan is still a lurking threat as that storyline seems to die until McG realizes he has some money left in the action budget and has Ivan reappear for the unnecessary and unfulfilling final reel of the film.
It should come as no surprise to learn that Simon Kinberg gets credit for the screenplay. Simon had penned the script for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith some six years ago in 2005. This Means War felt like material that was left on the cutting room floor from Mr. & Mrs. Smith and was saved from the 20th Century Fox dumpster to be cut and spliced into a new film looking desperately to dupe audiences expecting a smart and action-packed winter distraction.
As aforementioned, director McG had worked on the Charlie’s Angels big screen adaptation in 2000. At times, This Means War made Charlie’s Angels look like Dr. Zhivago.
Billed as an action/comedy, there are two things that paying patrons will be expecting – action and comedy. The action is spaced too far apart. After a rousing yet confusing opening, it is only the final 15 minutes where we get to shift in our seats with any mounted expectations of action. The final action sequence which can be billed as the climax of the film was short and uninspired leaving us to wonder why we sat through the first 80 minutes with any sense of expectation of a payoff. And when the final decision as to which male Lauren wants to continue a relationship is revealed – you really won’t give a rats ass either way as the chemistry between any of the three is as lacking as a Lindsay Lohan brain cell.
The comedic moments fare better but This Means War is basically just a one-joke premise that is drawn out for a duration that will seem excruciating at times. A better script would have had the 1-hour wooing cut down to two scenes and a montage and kept the audience more focused on either the CIA partnership in peril or on the attempt by Ivan to seek some sort of revenge.
Chris Pine and Tom Hardy do as much as they can with their respective roles, but we can argue that the two actors have never had as little to work with in their still just budding careers.
Reese Witherspoon does just enough to keep us from throwing our popcorn container at the screen but her co-start Chelsea Handler gets all the best lines even if 50% of them seem forced and their segmented inclusion seems to have been afterthoughts.
This Means War was not terrible. But it wasn’t much above throw-away watchable either. The best moments are in the trailer and with the talent involved, you can’t help but think that the one-year an average movie takes to put together was wasted by all those who turned down other jobs to make this dud.