Movie Review: This Means War

When I was a kid, I used to pretend to be a super cool secret agent sometimes. After watching James Bond and the first Mission: Impossible enough, I was pretty sure all you needed was to be cool enough. That’s kind of how the CIA plays out in this movie. Chris Pine and Tom Hardy are grown up kids using all the people and tools their agency has to offer to get the girl.

Tattooed, divorced, and introverted, Tuck (Hardy) wants to settle down. Again. His best friend and partner, FDR (Yes, that’s the character’s name, played by Pine), is still busy playing the field. They couldn’t be more opposite except for the fact that they’re both incredibly skilled field agents for the CIA. After a crazy shootout ends in the death of a terrorist caused by our favorite agents, the terrorist’s brother (Til Schweiger) vows revenge. Mostly unaware of this back home in the states, Tuck and FDR happen to start dating the same girl (Reese Witherspoon). They both know it, she doesn’t, and they turn it into a (somewhat) friendly game, all while sabotaging each other’s dates in hopes that she’ll eventually pick the right guy.

If that description seems at all cluttered, it may be because what the story focused on (the relationships) and what I wanted them to focus on (the action) where a little unbalanced. It’s funny to see these guys in a (kind of) Romantic/Comedy after seeing them in the things I’ve come to know them by. Pine, for the 2009 Star Trek and 2007’s Smokin’ Aces, where he played a character so dirty and ridiculous, I didn’t even recognize him. In this, he’s playing to his strengths, closer to Captain Kirk without the spaceship. You don’t want him to get the girl at first, being that he’s only interested because Witherspoon isn’t.  But after a while, he’s the only who’s actually going through any changes for the better whereas Tuck, played casually by Hardy has been a good guy throughout. Hardy, who’s name might not be as recognizable as his face has been around for a bit now, popping up in the some of the better films of the past few years, with his repitoire only increasing as July’s Dark Knight Rises Antagonist, Bane. I, along with most people I know, are really waiting for that above all else, but that doens’t mean his talent is conserved here. While Pine is maybe a little too slick for some audience members perhaps, Hardy conveys cool and humble in a single spoken line.

One scene that especially captured the tone of this film would be the paintball scene and it also happens to be my favorite. After hearing over a wiretap that he may be a little too “safe” for Witherspoon’s character, Tuck decides to show here how edgy he can be by bringing her to a paintball park, complete with screaming patrons running in and out of fortresses and behind barriers. Wasting no time in trying to impress her, Tuck runs through the entire area, not only shooting everyone in the face with surgical precision, he jumps up to sidekick an opponent in the chest and flip one over a birdsnest-style post, all in the name of capturing the flag, only to disturb his date with how good he is. What also helped was his paint-grenading of a safehouse that a group of kids take refuge in, paint exploding out the windows and doors, screaming kids inside. It was a great blend of action and comedy, one I wished the entire film would’ve carried as well.

While yesterday’s Ghost Rider had the “one step forward, nine steps back” approach, This Means War employed “Two Steps forward, one step back.” For every time there’s something cool or funny that happens, there’s something else you don’t care about. One thing in particular is the entire concept of the film that you have to believe that a girl is even worth dating if she’s willing to date you at the same time, using you until she chooses who she feels like picking. That’s closer to something I dealt with in 9th grade and I would hope CIA Super Agents would be a little beyond that. But then again, no reason to grow, no conflict, no movie. Another massive fault I found was the ending; the manner in which she chooses who she’ll be with. I’m not going to spoil it here but I will say it was about as dumb as you can get and I’m surprised at the fact that a bunch of adults got around and okayed this.

That brings me to a topic of similar note and one that’s brought up if a movie of his is- McG. Why are you calling yourself this? Stop. Use your real name. I looked it up and it’s not that bad. It’s not bad at all when you consider what he’s using now. When I find out that “McG” is directing anything, the name makes me shudder. It sounds like something a 40 year-old club lurker would call himself to the twenty-year olds he’s hitting on. Or a pornstar director. Neither are good. Maybe he’s gone so far with the name already, he doens’t want to change it now, for fear of being unrecognizable on paper.

If you go in with expectations of a movie with more Action than Romance/Comedy, you may be disappointed. But casual audiences will decide this is well worth their time. Everybody plays their part as well as can be expected and there’s nothing particularly bad about this film, it’s just that there’s always room for improvement with them also. A little more depth, slightly less gloss, maybe?

Stars: Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Reese Witherspoon, Til Schweiger, Chelsea Handler

Rated PG-13 for some violence, some sexuality, language, Run Time 2 hours, Action/Comedy

Plays Like: Mr and Mrs. Smith (2005), Killers (2010), Knight and Day (2010)

Grade: C+

One Response to “Movie Review: This Means War”

  1. Anthony Bosco Says:

    Check out this new Chris Nolan style short film:

    Reminds me of INCEPTION and MEMENTO.

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