This Means War
This is shit!
Contrary to popular misconception, I’m actually quite a positive person. A glass half-full kinda guy. I really am. I can normally see the best in any situation. Especially when it comes to films. There’s always a positive if I just look hard enough, long enough. Even the worst, most obnoxious, soul-sucking, corporate, made-by-the-numbers, intellectually and artistically bankrupt piece of foul cinematic demon excrement usually has something good in it.
Southland Tales was incoherent, self-indulgent crap but that bit where Justin Timberlake lip-synchs to All These Things That I’ve Done by The Killers, that bit was great! The recent Conan movie was so bad it made me pray to an absent and obviously uncaring God for global nuclear annihilation to wipe humanity from the face of the Earth but damn, incestuous Goth vamp Rose McGowan was hot! The Bruce Willis/Richard Gere retread of The Day Of The Jackal was a tension-free exercise in tedium but at least Bruno tore professional arsehole Jack Black a new one. On a similar note, the only reason to watch I Still Know What You Did Last Summer apart from Jennifer Love Hewitt’s gravity-defying bosom is to see Jack Black take a set of hedge clippers to the chest. Say what you like about the remake of The Wicker Man but Nic Cage getting a faceful of bees (“Not the bees! Not the bees!”) is pretty funny and while it’s absolutely atrocious and features Stuart Townsend as a vampire leprechaun, at least Queen Of The Damned was orders of magnitude better than the Twilight movies. See! I positively crap positivity.
Which brings me to This Means War and its good points. Well…Tom Hardy isn’t terrible. He’s quite good in fact, showing a gift for comedy that was hinted at in Inception’s louche identity forger.
So much for This Means War’s good points.
Incoherently directed by McG (who is to subtlety and sensitivity what a solid boot to the balls is to fertility), with a script scrawled in crayon by a dyslexic simpleton and edited to within an inch of inducing epilepsy by what I can only assume is a masturbating bonobo with a cutthroat razor, This Means War is quite simply so terrible it will make you believe in the supernatural. It’s incomprehensible how this film was crapped into existence without someone at Twentieth Century Fox fellating Lucifer. In fact, if you sit close enough to the speaker, you can probably hear, just beneath the soundtrack, demonic chanting in ancient Sumerian and the weeping of the eternally damned.
Contrary to what the trailer may have you believe, This Means War is not, I repeat not, a jolly, knockabout, action comedy in the vein of Mr And Mrs Smith or True Lies. Sure, there’s a bit of incomprehensible action at the start and a bit more incomprehensible action at the end but This Means War isn’t an action comedy; it’s a rom-com. Nothing wrong with that. Who doesn’t love the occasional girly rom-com? I’m not ashamed to admit that, on more than one occasion, while idly flicking through the channels, I’ve come across 27 Dresses about 20 minutes in and ended up watching the rest of the movie. OK, I’m a little ashamed but sometimes you just can’t beat a decent rom-com. Unfortunately, This Means War is not a decent rom-com; it’s more the kind of rom-com (precious little rom, absolutely no com!) that normally stars Kate Hudson. Yup! It’s that bad. Even Katherine Heigl and Jennifer Aniston don’t make rom-coms this bad.
You know how this kind of film works. You could write this kind of film. You’d probably do a better job. You couldn’t do a worse job. You take one cute couple; they argue and fight a lot but they have fantastic sexual chemistry and are made for each other. Throw in a love rival who’s either a bit of a dick or is too nice. Add some comic misunderstandings, a climactic race against time (the impending marriage of one partner or that dream job on the other side pf the world), a last-ditch declaration of love (think the “You complete me,” scene in Jerry Maguire) and hey, presto! romantic comedy gold.
In the perky Kate Hudson role (and by “perky” I mean “Zooey Deschanel-level annoying”) is 35-year-old Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon who last played perky back in 2001’s Legally Blonde (there was also 2003’s Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde but I’ve managed to block that from my memory) and who just seems a little too, well, mature in the role of Lauren, the love-starved singleton who comes between This Means War’s cute couple (with fantastic sexual chemistry who are obviously made for each other are), top CIA agents and BFFs, FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy). Enrolled on a dating website by her annoying, foul-mouthed friend Trish (annoying, foul-mouthed chat show host Chelsea Handler), Lauren meets and dates the sweet, suave and ruggedly handsome Tuck. Five minutes later, in a ‘hilarious’ coincidence, she meets and dates the arrogant, handsome FDR. Five minutes after that, in another ‘hilarious’ coincidence, FDR and Tuck realise they’re dating the same girl and instead of thinking: “Hmm! This Lauren girl in the unfeasibly short skirts is a bit of a sort,” they immediately engage in an increasingly creepy stalker game of one-upmanship, deploying millions of dollars of high-tech gadgets and surveillance equipment as they spend the rest of the film competing for her love while Lauren tries to decide which rugged, besotted hunk she wants to spend the rest of her life with. Which she tries to do by weighing up each one’s pros and cons. And also boffing them both within the same 24-hour period. Which is just a little bit, well, slaggy. There’s also a sub-plot about an evil international arms dealer (is there any other kind?) but who really cares?
While she may be a fine actress and a gifted light comedienne, Reese Witherspoon’s just not sexy. Her wholesome, cutesiness and Aryan all-American good looks but she’s a bit vanilla; she lacks the raw, animal sex appeal the role requires. She’s also looking just a little scraggy these days, a teensy bit mutton dressed as lamb. Are we seriously expected to believe that not one but two rugged, handsome CIA assassins would fall for her? That these two lifelong friends and comrades would be driven to increasingly demented, bitter, creepy and dangerous lengths by her siren-like beauty? She also lacks any form of sexual chemistry with either Hardy or Pine. The tension between Hardy and Pine though is electric.
In many ways, you could see Witherspoon’s Lauren as both unwitting beard and the vessel that allows Tuck and FDR to consummate their manlove. These two guys do everything together. They travel the world, kill bad guys, fall in lurve with the same shrill, bland, blonde and then spy on each other as they woo her, pulling every dirty spy trick they know to thwart and frustrate the other’s romance. They even watch surveillance footage of each other’s respective dates together, reviewing and critiquing each other’s performance.
A truly happy, satisfying resolution to this dreary mess would be for Tuck and FDR, after the climactic shootout, to turn to each other, sweat dappling their manly brows, their pistols spent and smoking, and fall into each others arms. They don’t though. One of them has to get the girl. But, like that time Elton John married the plain German woman, you know it isn’t going to last. Sooner or later love will find a way.
Stunningly awful without being in any way memorable, even reading this review is moments stolen from your life that This Means War doesn’t deserve.
Timothy Dowling, Simon Kinberg, Marcus Gautesen
Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Til Schweiger, Chelsea Handler, Angela Basset