THIS MEANS WAR
DIRECTED BY: McG
WRITTEN BY: Timothy Cowling, Simon Kinberg
STARRING: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Til Schweiger
RUNNING TIME: 97 mins
DISTRIBUTED BY: 2oth Century Fox
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
FDR Foster and Tuck Henson are CIA agents and best friends. FDR is a womaniser whose cover is that he’s a cruise ship captain, while Tuck is a more sensitive soul with an ex-wife, and a cover as a travel agent. After a dangerous mission in Hong Kong goes wrong and they kill a big crimina’s brother, the two are assigned to desk duty upon their return to America. Tuck signs up for a dating service and is paired up with Lauren Scott, a product testing executive. The two hit off but when FDR bumps into Lauren in a DVD shop and has his advances rebuked, he too becomes interested in her in a way he never has before with a woman. Lauren begins to date the two guys at the same time, both of whom use their roles as CIA agents to find out as much information as they can about her and thereby be the better guy…..
Although the trailer in no way indicated that This Mean War was going to be a good film, I went into the cinema with an open mind. After all, I am one critic who often finds himself disagreeing with the majority view and in some ways likes to be that way. Ten minutes into This Means War, I realised that this time the critics were right. This is an atrocious, odious piece of shit that may very well be the worst film I will see this year. Actually, thinking about it again, the critics may not have got it quite right, because This Means War is actually worse than I had read. Twice, I almost walked out of the cinema [something I have only ever done once in my life, because I adore film so much and am ever hopeful that even a rubbish film may have something good in it], but stayed, basically so can I write this review having seen the entire film. What is sad is that the predominantly teenage audience I saw the movie with seemed to enjoy it. I don’t blame them; if people are constantly force- fed garbage they will end up accepting and even enjoying it [think of the Twilight films]. Honestly though, the fact that this film has made money is very disturbing. If you have seen the trailer, which as I have hardly makes the film look much good, you have seen the best [or rather the least worst] bits.
The basic idea of two spies falling for the same girl actually had potential, and one can see that the filmmakers were attempting something akin to the enormously entertaining Mr And Mrs Smith [the two movies even share a writer, unbelievably] but something, somewhere, went seriously wrong and we ended up with a film that is not only totally moronic but downright offensive to anyone who has a brain or any kind of values. I suppose the film doesn’t start in too bad a fashion, opening with our two heroes carrying out a mission in a callous but mildly amusing manner. Of course the action is shot with lots of one second close ups so we cannot see what is going on, but I am so used to that in films at the moment that I am almost beyond caring. Over half of today’s directors shooting action have no idea what they are doing. Fact! So time now to move on. We are introduced to the lead female character, and soon our heroes start to ‘romance’ her. It is here that things really go wrong. Horribly.
Both Tuck and FDR use their CIA computers to find out things about Lauren so they can use then to woo her. FDR even turns up at a demonstration Lauren is doing and, when his advances [in front of everyone] are rejected, sleazily whispers “you smell nice” as he leaves. They both place bugs in her film [actually, truth be told, this is probably the only nicely done scene in the film, as the camera doesn’t cut for a couple of minutes and goes all over the place]. They use CIA manpower in spying on her and finding out information. Now, I am certainly not someone who requires protagonists in movies to be sympathetic, but these guys are downright scary in their invasion of the heroine’s privacy, yet we are obviously supposed to find them cool and funny. A message to the director McG [who, it is now proven, is incapable of making a good film] and writers Timothy Kowling and Simon Kinberg; it’s not cool and funny, its horrible, sinister and cruel. These supposedly likeable guys are obsessive stalkers with about one brain cell between them and that brain cell being the brain cell of an emotionally stunted, borderline-psychopathic criminal. Then again, Lauren, our heroine, is not any better. Though played by the 35 year old Reese Witherspoon, she seems about as naive as a 15 year old, and, after she has been dating two guys at the same time, we are supposed to feel sorry for her when we have the obligatory scene where she finds out her two beaus know each other. The filmmakers think she is emancipated but she’s not; she’s a stupid dupe and a mug. She also thinks The Lady Vanishes is a “second-tier’ Hitchcock movie, which the writers obviously think makes her clever but actually makes her even more stupid. That DVD shop she is in though did have a wonderful poster of the 40s Ida Lupino movie Roadhouse. God I wanted that poster, though probably because it was the only thing I liked in the whole movie.
The worst character in the film, though, is Lauren’s best friend Trish. Now it is definitely something common to many dumb rom-coms that the heroine have a friend [who is sometimes gay, sometimes not] she can confide in, basically so that the stupid audience watching the film can just about keep up with events as she explains what has been happening. Lauren has ‘Trish’, and literally after every other scene we cut to Lauren confiding in Trish, who is perpetually horny and just thinks sex is the answer to everything. Possibly mildly amusing the first time. Positively aggravating after twenty times, not to mention that the film that is ‘12A’, something that people under 12 years of age can see with someone older. In fact, this film shows that the BBCF have totally lost their way in giving this film a rating that enables young children to see it. As I was watching the film, every now and again I saw a parent taking a young child out to the loo, and I was incredibly depressed. What kind of world is it now that young children can see a film where sizes of penises are discussed and we see people having sex? It seems in something like twenty years we have gone from our censors being stupidly strict to being dangerously lax.
This Means War climaxes with some shooting and a car chase, but you know what? It’s probably the most ineptly edited action scene I have ever seen, with shots and what look like whole segments missing. A scene where the two guys fight it out is only enjoyable and amusing because you expect them to actually start ‘getting it on’ midway through. Both Chris Pine and Tom Hardy do have some chemistry together, though their banter is never as amusing as it thinks it is. The music alternates between rock music during the action and jazzy dance music during everything else , seemingly played to give us the impression we are watching something cool and groovy. We’re not. This Means War is horrible, offensive rubbish which belongs in the nearest dustbin. Then again, it could very well be the horror movie of the year, as it is so horrible. Sadly, because a few things like the music and some of the performances are reasonable, I don’t feel I can give the film a low a rating as I wanted to, though of course it’s low enough. And damn that Ida Lupino poster was good!