Entertainment Magazine

In Cinemas: This Means War

Posted on the 02 March 2012 by Desertofreel @Kob_Monney

Tom Hardy and Chris Pine in This Means War

May the best man win

Critically pilloried upon its release in the US, This Means War should come with a note that says ‘I’m not as bad as you think’ because for the things (or thing, in this case, the director) it has going against it, it really isn’t as bad as its critical reception would imply. But it isn’t as good as it could have been either, and that’s down to the character inconsistencies and a pretty forgettable third act that deflates the film like a punctured tire.

Coming across as a buddy comedy mixed with Mr and Mrs Smith, This Means War follows two best friends FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) as they both fall in love with the same girl, Lauren (Reese Witherspoon). They also happen to be working for the CIA and once they realize they’re going out with the same girl they go to war. May the best man win etc, etc.

There’s a villain in the form of arms dealer Henrich (Til Schweiger) but he’s a plot device the film is unconcerned with until it wants to project some tepidly done menace. It’s more interested in pratfalls, misunderstandings and ‘boys will be boys’ mentality, skewing logic and doing whatever it feels like. That approach works especially in the middle third as Pine and Hardy use agency assets and other methods of manipulation to try and best one another. It’s in this section where the film finds its feet, becoming more and more ludicrous, with a paintball scene that’s the strongest, funniest moment in the film as Tuck tries to prove his manliness.

It’s broad, loud and wacky (perhaps a little too much for some); the silly atmosphere working for it rather than against until its more clichéd parts hover into view. The film knows what it is and has no aspirations higher than giddy fun. It recognises the plot’s inherent cheesiness and goes for broke.

The facets that make up its core strengths are part of its problems. It wants to be a disposable, forgettable two-hour flick and succeeds in being just that. Pine and Hardy make for a decent combination but even they can’t sell these stock characters and make them entirely believable. The whole cast play hackneyed characters (Chelsea Handler is the abrasive sister to Witherspoon’s Lauren who offers shaky advice), and the ‘seen it done before’ haze starts to materialise before long.

And now we come to the film’s perceived fault, McG. While I’ve never been fond of his filmmaking (or why he thought McG* was better than his real Joseph McGinty Nichol), his films haven’t been eye-gougingly bad; just populist entertainment that borrows from better films and lacks an imagination of its own. While he keeps This Means War breezy and fun, he’s never as convincing in other areas as he is in being goofy. His copy-cat nature extends to action which is akin to taking the camera and kicking it about like most derivative ‘shaky cam’ films. The quick cuts and flurry of limbs is almost indecipherable and annoying in the extreme. It’s sloppy and in terms of characters he’s just as sloppy. His inattention to the narrative gives the film some baffling character moments with one scene late on just flat-out absurd, the one glaring moment where the writers/McG make a hash of things and go for movie logic instead of common sense.

It still retains a sense of fun and while it’s lacking in grand thrills (the last action sequence feels perfunctory) it gets by by not trying very hard (odd I know). It’s silly, undemanding fun and would make for a good date film but it’s dumb.

In a good way. Just.


*Sounds cooler though


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