This Means War - TV Review

'A film which tries to trick you into thinking it's a harmless piece of throwaway rom-com action fluff - and nearly gets away with it too - before you realise just how ugly so many of the things it appears to stand for really are'.

You can imagine co-leads Tom Hardy and Chris Pine looking back on This Means War in a decade or two and seriously wondering what the hell they were thinking going anywhere near it. For Hardy, this is a total departure from the more gritty and hardhitting roles the actor has become known for, in fact being released in the same year as Hardy's turns as both musclebound mumbling psychopath Bane in The Dark Knight Rises and musclebound mumbling bootlegger Forrest Bondurant in Lawless. Meanwhile, whilst Pine does have some questionable rom-com fare further down his CV, this comes a few years after the actor's acclaimed breakout turn in J. J. Abrams' Star Trek reboot, meaning This Means War feels like an unusual step backwards for the new captain of the Starship Enterprise at this point in his career.

And yet here they are, with Pine working his way through a veritable smorgasbord of cheese in his repertoire, whilst Hardy does his best (i.e. not very good) Jude Law impersonation throughout. That said, the pair of leads are by far the best thing about This Means War, a film which tries to trick you into thinking it's a harmless piece of throwaway rom-com action fluff - and nearly gets away with it too - before you realise just how ugly so many of the things it appears to stand for really are.

McG locates his film firmly in Rom-Com Land, a setting which - perhaps unsurprisingly - constantly rings false. This is a world where circus tents sit empty, waiting for people on dates to wander into them and begin performing on trapezes willy-nilly; where priceless collections of art are at the disposal of any government employee looking to impress his latest squeeze; and where it's perfectly ordinary for two CIA operatives to not only drop everything actually related to their jobs in order to carry out reconnaissance on Lauren (Reece Witherspoon), the girl they've both fallen for, but also to rope several other agents into their tasteless display of macho one-upmanship seemingly without any attempt to hide what they're doing from their superiors.

The action moments constantly jar, McG failing to strike a pleasing balance against the vacuous fantasyland in which his movie takes place. Had the director opted for a more tongue-in-cheek tone,  akin to something like 21 Jump Street, then it's possible that This Means War might have ended up a little more successful. As it is, McG never goes far enough down the comic route to make the action feel fun, whilst any time he attempts something more serious his film falls completely flat. It doesn't help that the action-based subplot revolving around international criminal Heinrich (Til Schweiger) seeking revenge on Tuck (Hardy) and FDR (Pine, and yes that really is his character's name) never feels like more than a thinly drawn afterthought.

What really marks out This Means War as the truly terrible film it is are the regularly backward and downright insulting values underpinning it, most prominently regarding its representation of women. McG for the most part makes his female characters entirely unlikeable and inauthentic, painting them as either desperate, vacuous or sex-crazed - or all three in the case of Lauren's boorish friend Trish (Chelsea Handler), one of the most obnoxious characters you're ever likely to experience on screen. The saving grace initially seems to be Tuck's ex-wife Katie (Abigail Leigh Spencer), her occasional appearances throughout the narrative making her out to be the sole well-rounded and realistic woman present. But, in the end, even she is converted by McG into a shallow bimbo with a weakness for burly action men - the final piece to complete This Means War's ugly patchwork of lowest common denominator cinema.




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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