Friday, February 17, 2012

Movie Review: This Means War

Tom Hardy, Reese Witherspoon and Chris Pine
This Means War (2012)
Directed by: McG
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy

I reviewed this film for Next Projection.

With the release of This Means War, 2012 already has an early frontrunner for the top "award" at the annual Razzies.

It's already a challenge to craft a romantic comedy that avoids cranking out the standard genre cliches, and while director McG throws everything he can at the screen in an attempt to distract the audience from the nonsensical script -- everything from massive guns and high-tech gadgets -- there's no avoiding the fact that This Means War is yet another dud on his filmography.

Working with a script that apparently required four writers, McG tries for his own version of Mr. and Mrs. Smith -- yet he lacks the campy fun of Doug Liman's 2005 hit and the sexually-charged chemistry shared between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Two longtime best friends and CIA operatives, FDR Foster (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy, whose character apparently doesn't require a last name), live life on the edge -- taking every opportunity they can to flex their macho-cool on international assignments involving high-octane chases and flying bullets. After a botched mission in Hong Kong reduces them to desk duty, FDR and Tuck, quite accidentally, find themselves falling for the same woman (Reese Witherspoon) on their spare time. Divorced, single dad Tuck meets Lauren through an online dating website while playboy FDR and Lauren "meet cute" in a video rental store (these still exist?) This unexpected rivalry soon spirals out of control as FDR and Tuck use every piece of absurd technology available to them in order to track Lauren's every move in a desperate (and incredibly creepy) attempt to woo her.

And, just to remind the audience that Tuck and FDR have a very, very dangerous occupation, there's a baddie named Heinrich (Til Schweiger) who is hot on their trail, sporting a sleek car, dapper suit and an obscure Eastern European accent.

Pine and Hardy
This Means War relies heavily on the charisma of its leads. As Lauren, Witherspoon goes her usual cute-girl-in-an-awkward-sitaution route, gamely wrestling with her oh-so-tough dilemma of having to choose between two gorgeous men. With the help of comedienne Chelsea Handler as her loyal sidekick pal, Trish, Witherspoon can dish out the charm with the best of them. She is a pro of the romantic comedy genre, after all, and her scenes with the brash Handler are her strongest.

But make no mistake; the main draw is the feud between Tuck and FDR, their bromance thrown asunder by a woman they hardly know. The chemistry between Hardy and Pine is palpable, it's just a shame they weren't given a better picture to star in. They both manage to make even the worst lines of dialogue (and there are many) sound even remotely charming.

McG keeps the plot in a perpetual state of motion with one increasingly more ludicrous action sequence after another -- culminating in a finale that can only have been ripped straight out of Speed. Yet, despite all the explosions and back-and-forth banter, you're likely to have lost interest by the halfway mark as each subsequent scene becomes more plodding and implausible than the last.

This Means War is essentially a mediocre "romantic-explosion" movie that buries any brief enjoyable moments under a pile of rubble and cringe-worthy dialogue. While it might prove a somewhat amusing distraction to audiences, it's ultimately utterly forgettable.