So, an action packed romantic comedy with two great male leads, one female lead that specializes in fairly standard to mediocre romantic comedies and directed by a man who’s name sounds like a one hit wonder hip hop artist from the late 80’s or early 90’s. When I say action packed I am merely trying to look at it from the sales team point of view behind THIS MEANS WAR, because while there is action, it is nowhere near thrilling or as fun as it could be. The good thing here is that Chris Pine and Tom Hardy to a well enough job of making fairly weak material something I was able to squeeze a decent amount of enjoyment out of.
There’s nothing very new or exciting in the story where two best friends who also happen to be spies end up dating the same girl and compete for her affection. Of course because these two gentlemen are spies it’s only natural for them to utilize government equipment to keep tabs on each other. Tom Hardy and Chris Pine star as the friends Tuck and Franklin and their friendship is the more redeeming aspect of the entire film. Reese Witherspoon stands in as Lauren, the girl the two friends are competing for and provides for a few chuckles, but otherwise doesn’t provide anything spectacular. The love triangle being the focus of the film has moments of interesting conflict, but it also really wears thin at times before wrapping itself up in a weak fashion and just when the film should quit while its somewhat ahead it tacks on an additional scene that I just found annoying and detrimental to whatever good will it had going for one of the characters.
I really enjoyed Tom Hardy’s role as the more sensitive of the two friends the much more likable than Pine’s- at first at least. Pine starts out as a player with zero ambition to develop any form of committed relationship and has zero guilt for attempting to steal a girl away from his best friend who he knows is really looking for a connection with someone. Eventually, Pine’s shallow exterior gets some depth as we learn more about his past and he becomes more likable. I have to say though that the over confident performance Pine is getting used to relying on is far more obnoxious here and works much better in the STAR TREK reboot. Witherspoon on the other hand offers little when it comes to comedy outside of just a few cute lines she says to herself when she’s panicking in the bathroom at one point. She is there more as just a tool stirring the conflict between Pine and Hardy as well as to have a few somewhat humorous exchanges with Chelsea Handler’s character- who I otherwise found incredibly annoying.
It seems like a waste of time to pick apart logic when it comes to this film so I’m going to skip that for now and talk about the film’s mostly incompetent action. There’s very little to begin with and it’s a little sad that the most exciting aspect of it and funniest is a bunch of kids versus Tom Hardy at paintball. The whole deal with the two of them using their resources to spy on Lauren and telling them it has to do with another top priority target yet their colleagues see them both going on dates with her and sabotaging their dates and we’re to believe our governments spies are this gullible to keep believing this harmless blond girl is a national threat. Then of course there’s the scene where the two best friends and coworkers flip a switch and instantly try to murder each other- if one succeeded, how would they explain that one at work the next day? Certainly though the final decision of who Lauren picks at the end could be fun and a bit of a surprise right? Nope, the way that’s finally revealed is awfully weak as well and caps off the final action scene that actually did have a couple of cool shots in it.
I knock the film down just to bring it back up again though- because the fact of the matter is that while there are plenty of flaws and logic gaps to go around I actually had a pretty good time watching it. No thanks to the action or the editing within the action scenes. The script is hardly anything special, but the actors make it work as much as they can and the friendship between Hardy and Pine give the film that little extra push when things are looking really dour.
THIS MEANS WAR is action challenged, sloppily edited and light on truly effective comedy- which leaves me scratching my own head wondering how I ended up enjoying it as much as I did. The film couldn’t be farther away from perfect and it’s certainly not going to enter the ranks of the classics in action comedy or romantic comedy or whatever genre you want to put it in. A pair of mostly likable leads and a less than generous handful of chuckles make THIS MEANS WAR enjoyable in spite of its many flaws.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)