This Means War would have been better if it actually capitalised on its ‘It’s Spy Against Spy’ tagline. Instead what we’re left with is a rollercoaster action comedy monster with more downs than ups, but it’s the sheer stupidity of its bizarre fantasy romance baseline that might trick you into enjoyment.
The premise is interesting. Two CIA agents who are best friends fall in love with the same girl, Lauren Scott (Reese Witherspoon; Water for Elephants) unbeknownst to one another. When they find out however, they enact a gentlemen’s agreement with some basic ground rules which amount to staying out of each other’s way and letting her decide on who’s ‘the better man for her’.
Aside from the obvious moral issues – two guys knowingly dating the same girl while she dates them – there’s plenty of fruit here for a fun story. This was a chance to revisit the plot of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels by having the two leads constantly trying to one-up and sabotage the other’s efforts to woo Lauren. It’s wasted though, as the spy vs spy stuff doesn’t go anywhere until the second half of the movie and even then the most drastic stuff they do was revealed in the trailers. As usual, when the best bits are in the previews then you know there’s cause for concern.
At least the leads are both charismatic. Chris Pine (Star Trek) is still playing the same character he always does: a dashing, arrogant ladies man. Meanwhile Tom Hardy (Warrior) brings a bit of Brit wit to the film as a humble heartthrob. The pair make for a pseudo bad cop, good cop duo but the movie doesn’t push that aspect of their relationship.
Witherspoon’s character is pretty annoying. That’s to say she’s cute but annoying. The story plays it as if she’s the victim but I couldn’t disagree more. This is a woman who knowingly dates two guys at once and, because she can’t decide on who to pick, decides that she’ll have a sex showdown and rate them on their performance to determine the winner. It’s around this point that the spy vs spy stuff really comes into play as the pair start trying to stop one another from having sex with her. It’s what Lauren says however, when they finally come face to face that irked me.
There’s also a distracting and completely unnecessary bad guy/terrorist subplot throughout the whole movie. Generically bland Heinrich (Til Schweiger) pops up at the beginning, middle and end to serve as little more than an excuse for some preposterous action scenes from director McG (Terminator Salvation, Charlie’s Angels). Making matters worse is the fact that the film ends with a copout ending that’s there only to give both men a happy resolution. Bleh.
It’s all so sappy and insipidly stupid that I kind of just rolled my eyes and went with it. It’s not so bad it’s good, but I wasn’t quite aching to leave the cinema either. The grannies near me seemed to enjoy it, though I can’t be sure in the darkness if they were slapping themselves in laughter or arguing in Italian with wild hand movements. The most I could conjure was a smile, not a laugh, but I can see the appeal in the big budget dumbness of it all – This Means War is a Michael Bay movie if Michael Bay made movies for Valentine’s Day.