Genre: Comedy, Action, Romance
Directed by: McG
Starring: Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Reese Witherspoon, Chelsea Handler
On paper, This Means War could have worked. A romantic comedy about two spies competing for the same girl seems like a great excuse for inventive, humorous situations and clever, gadget filled one-upmanship. There could be action for the guys and romance for the girls. The three lead actors are likable enough and if Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol proved anything it’s that espionage and comedy can be happy bedfellows. Unfortunately, instead of being a fun way to kill an hour and half, This Means War is almost impossibly inept.
The plot is basic, but then it doesn’t need to be anything more. Super spies Franklin “FDR” Foster (Chris Pine) and Tuck Henson (Tom Hardy) are partners and best friends who both happen to fall for the same woman, product testing executive Lauren Scott (Reese Witherspoon). When they realise they both like the same girl, Tuck and FDR enter a gentleman’s agreement to let her continue dating both of them until she decides which of them is the guy for her. That is until, of course, their competitive nature leads them both to use the resources at their disposal to out-manoeuvre and sabotage each other’s attempts to woo her.
This could have formed a solid (if somewhat creepy) back-bone for some smart, action-fuelled laughs but This Means War falls short on every level. The opening action sequence, a covert operation used to establish Tuck and FDR’s bromance, is utterly bewildering with jerky, hard to follow camera work and strangely flat banter between the characters. Meanwhile an early scene in which Lauren and her best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler) discuss the pros and cons of online dating fails to raise a smile due to the actors wrestling with ‘comedic’ dialogue that’s so forced the whole thing feels unnatural. Sadly this awkward start sets the tone for what’s to follow: Poor dialogue, haphazard action, and a complete lack of chemistry between the otherwise competent leads. Even worse, the whole thing comes off a strangely creepy and misogynistic.
It’s a real shame too because there are couple of instances where the whole ‘spy comedy’ thing shows real potential. There’s a scene in which Lauren is cooking alone at home, completely unaware that both her potential suitors are simultaneously placing her house under surveillance right under her nose. It’s slick, it’s smart and it’s only slightly hamstrung by the obnoxious song and dance routine Witherspoon is forced to perform during it. Better still is when Tuck takes Lauren paintballing and uses his spy skills to mercilessly annihilate an opposing team of terrified children. Moments like this make you realise that there’s a good idea in here somewhere, buried beneath a shoddy script and McG’s (yes that is his actual name) trashy direction. The worst part? Compared to McG’s previous credits (Charlie’s Angels, Terminator: Salvation) this might actually be an improvement.