This Means War Review

This Means War tells the story of a hardcore bromance between two CIA operatives, which is threatened when both parties fall for the same gal. It’s a relatively shallow premise that relies on a few great one-liners and visual gags in order to overcome its own stale plot and character development.

Hollywood blockbusters are notorious for habitually presenting stereotypes, but I found this particular hour and a half of action-cum-romantic comedy to be acutely excruciating.

Chris Pine plays FDR, an all-American playboy and badass, while Tom Hardy plays Tuck; his soft-spoken single-parent sidekick. As the two boys fall further in love with their shared prey, their friendly competition becomes a battle of foul play and spy gadgetry.

Reese Witherspoon is excellent as product researcher Lauren, proving that her natural charm as an actress can just about overcome any bad set-up. Her intermittent chats with her best friend Trish provide a smidgen of light relief from the explosions and manly banter that dominate the rest of the film.

For the most part, the script is sexist and renders all women uptight and sexually repressed. Particularly enraging is the presentation of FDR and Tuck’s CIA boss Collins, played by Angela Bassett.

She’s black, female and well over 30; therefore she must be a snappy, slave-driving bitch.

The normally charismatic Tom Hardy is castrated by a script that renders him little more than a Hugh Grant bumbler-type with pecs. Why one of Britain’s brightest new stars chose to take on a cursed role that was apparently turned down by Seth Rogen and Sam Worthington is something of a mystery to me.

In fact, This Means War reason for being seems to be promoting the acting talents of Chris Pine. Unfortunately, he’s about as charismatic as a bucket of mop-water. His barely-there character arc sees FDR turn from an arrogant, swaggering tail-chaser to an arrogant, swaggering tail-chaser with an endearing backstory; ramming home the film’s point that puffed-up bastards are just nice guys really.

It’s worth mentioning that besides the love triangle storyline, there’s also a meagre subplot involving an Eastern European gangster with a burning vendetta against the CIA. I honestly can’t remember why this is important and, judging by its significance to This Means War, neither could the writers.

Still, Witherspoon might just have salvaged the film with a triumphant exit and last laugh at the expense of her two male suitors. Instead she’s saddled with a soppy and unconvincing finale, so another great performer is spayed at the hands of this brutally one-dimensional lol-fest.

See This Means War if you found Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle to be engaging yet too pro-feminist. See it if you watched Some Like It Hot and thought what this really needs is some explosions and less drag. See it if you liked Rush Hour 2.

Of course, if all of the above applies, I may just declare war upon you.

Douglas Williams

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March 2012
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