Jacob Latimore, Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett star in director Kasi Lemmons' seasonal drama.
On Film4: 17 Dec 11:00AM
Two smooth-talking spies discover that they're dating the same woman (Reese Witherspoon), and soon all's unfair in love and war in this action rom-com, also starring Tom Hardy and Chris Pine
Tom Hardy was on the top of his game after delivering a string of brilliant performances in the likes of Bronson, Inception, Tinker Tailor Solider Spy and Warrior, and in McG’s action comedy he’s pitted against Chris Pine, who had experienced similar recent success after brilliantly reinventing Captain Kirk in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek. Reese Witherspoon, meanwhile, is an Oscar-winning actress who everyone loves, so it should come as no surprise that she’s the object of both Tuck (Hardy) and FDR’s (Pine) affections here. The twist is that both of the love-struck men are CIA agents, and they have all manner of crafty tactics and gadgets at their disposal to win the battle for the woman of their dreams.
Ahhh the Patriot Act. It's there to protect the American people. Unless they're Reese Witherspoon - who has her constitutional right not to be spied upon dancing in her knickers royally trampled on. You see, she's the object of the affections of two CIA operatives who really, really want to get to know her. Sound creepy? It is a little bit, but in McG's peppy little action rom-com, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy get away with some rather questionable behavior (and wildly inappropriate voyeurism) all in the name of love and sport. Michael Haneke's 'Hidden' this ain't, but it's all light-hearted enough as the fellers dart about in the shadows in order to find out what makes the lady tick.
Interestingly, whilst the boys come under scrutiny for the usual tomfoolery, the lovely lady gets to work a little deception of her own without being reprimanded, which seems a little bit skewed (although, in fairness she isn't compromising the security of the USA). And when Witherspoon (a perky ex-gymnast, 'yep-she's-got-it-all' sort of a gal) decides to date both men and count off their pros and cons you might start to think she's a little bit callous - but then you'd have missed one of the films delightfully silly set pieces, as there's no time to stop and wonder. The double-standards are so painfully entrenched into the gender politics of This Means War that it almost derails the film in a pivotal scene towards the end, but it's probably best to accept the terms of the playing field and just go with it.
The two handsome leads, Tom Hardy and Chris Pine, are cleverly cast against type - the 'tough cockney' Hardy is here a gentle, romantic soul and, believe it or not, he pulls it off. Pine's transformation from blue-eyed playboy to puppy dog-loving reformed man might not feel altogether sincere but he's still sparkly-toothed and energetic enough to provide the man-candy necessary for the role.
There's some feathery nonsense about a gangster out for revenge, but it really just serves as a welcome excuse for some fun and frolics in the all-action finale. The film is really only bookended by the hard stuff, but a thrilling car chase, some vertigo-inducing shootouts and a hilariously contrived 'who will she pick' climax all conspire to make sure This Means War is plenty of fun. Even if the final act is a bit of a cop-out, fans of a good bromance will be tickled pink by the film's leads whilst the irreverent Chelsea Handler pops up here and there to crack a decent vulgar joke. It's popcorn all over - tasty and sweet but of little nutritional value.
In a nutshell: Entertainment at its fluffiest but as a date movie with some genuine laughs, it works - just overlook the voyeuristic undertones and you'll have fun.
By Terry Mulcahy
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