Director McG’s spy/romcom “This Means War” has taken quite a beating from critics (it only scored a 26 percent on film rating website “Rotten Tomatoes”), but I was curious enough about the concept I went to see it anyway (and yes, I will confess, the fact it starred Chris Pine and Tom Hardy had something to do with that).
The film, which also stars Reese Witherspoon, has a plot that’s a little like “James Bond” meets “How Do You Know,” a 2010 romcom, also starring Witherspoon, about a softball player who falls in love with both a baseball star and an out-of-luck businessman and has to choose between them.
“This Means War” follows two CIA agents (played by Pine and Hardy) who are best friends and end up inadvertently falling in love with the same woman: product testing executive Lauren Scott (played by Witherspoon). Their friendship falls apart as they go to great lengths to try to sabotage the other’s efforts to charm Lauren, very much proving the phrase “all’s fair in love and war.” Unfortunately, their competition distracts them from their actual jobs, and an enemy agent bent on revenge is able to sneak into the country. In the end, Pine and Hardy are able to repair their friendship and defeat the enemy agent, though of course, only one of them can win Lauren’s heart.
After watching the movie, I think the premise looked better on paper than what was actually captured onscreen. There were some elements I liked, but I wish the idea had been executed a little bit differently.
The highlight of the film is definitely the friendship between Pine and Hardy’s characters. Pine and Hardy make for an unusual and somewhat of an “odd couple” casting choice, but it works, and they play well off each other. Though the film features a lot of scenes with Pine and Witherspoon, and Hardy and Witherspoon, I wish more screen time had been devoted to Pine and Hardy’s characters interacting.
By the end of the film, I found myself disliking Witherspoon’s character Lauren Scott, though the issue is with the script and not Witherspoon herself. Her character seemed a little shallow and selfish, and although I know it was part of the plot, the fact she leads both Hardy and Pine’s characters on and makes them compete for her seemed unfair and inconsiderate.
I also wasn’t a big fan of the casting choice of comedian Chelsea Handler as Lauren Scott’s best friend. Handler is known for her raunchy sense of humor, and although the film makers probably thought casting her would make the film a little edgier than romcoms normally are, her jokes are really just crude lines we’ve all heard in films before. They’re thrown in for shock value, but they’re not really all that funny or original. Some of the film’s funniest moments were the more creative ones (such as the scene where Hardy single-handedly takes out all the other players in a paintball game after he overhears Lauren comment that he’s too “sweet” and “safe”). I wish the film had had more moments like that one.
Though the film is a spy/romcom, it’s overall more romcom in tone, and I think it might have benefited from using more screen time to showcase Pine and Hardy’s work as CIA agents. One of the movie’s best scenes was the opening sequence of Hardy and Pine’s covert mission to Hong Kong, a slickly shot and choreographed action set piece. I would have liked it if the film had mixed in more of these types of scenes.
The bottom line? “This Means War” did have some fun moments; I went to see it with a friend, and we laughed and had a good time. However, I wish the film had delivered more than it actually did. I think Chris Pine and Tom Hardy both have a lot of promise as actors (they gave great performances in “Star Trek” and “Inception,” respectively), and I wish this movie had given them a stronger script to work with. And while I like Witherspoon, I’m also not convinced she was the right actress for this movie.
If I could remake the movie, I might have cast an actress more like Keira Knightley, Scarlett Johansson or Zoe Saldana. Instead of having Lauren Scott be a somewhat cliché, slightly ditzy heroine, it might have been interesting to have her actually be an enemy spy who’s dating Pine and Hardy just to get more information on them, and in the end, they realize the joke’s on them.
To watch a trailer for the movie, click here.