Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and with that comes the slew of romantic comedies meant to get women and their significant others into the theaters. The more ambitious film to come out this V-Day is the McG directed action/romance This Means War. An interesting premise, some decent action, and two dynamic leading men can’t help save a third act that loses all focus, and some harsh character manipulation that alienates its audience. While a cute movie for the most part, the ending will hotly divided the audience.
Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine) are two covert secret agents for the CIA. FDR beds any woman he sees with no interest in commitment while Tuck is recently divorced and looking for a meaningful relationship. Through a series of events they both meet the beautiful Lauren Scott (Reese Witherspoon) and unintentionally start dating her. When FDR and Tuck discover their girlfriends are one and the same, their friendship suffers and every CIA weapon comes into play.
This Means War does begin and propel through a fun, if not predictable, story in that two best friends date the same girl, with the added element of it turning into a Spy vs. Spy story. The heart of the movie is the romance and camaraderie between our leads and if anything the strongest story involves the friendship between our leading men. FDR and Tuck are introduced as two halves of the same coin and both actors genuinely feel like true friends. With the arrival of Lauren, the fun still continues as they think of increasingly hilarious ways to one-up each other including flooding one’s apartment or tranquilizing another. None of the things they do to find out about Lauren are legal but the hilarity comes from how over-the-top their actions are because they’re CIA operatives. A particular sequence involving Lauren dancing around her apartment while the two men slide around unseen is a well-shot moment that delivers all the laughs necessary.
In terms of acting prowess everyone works with as much as they have. Pine and Witherspoon are old hat in the romantic genre and neither really gives stand-out performances. Witherspoon still plays that uptight girl while Pine plays the Lothario and as long as you don’t expect Oscar-caliber performances their good. The true scene stealer is Hardy, taking a break from his violent, tough-as-nails characters to play a soft, sensitive Brit. I had a very hard time before this movie as I didn’t think Hardy could play romantic but he sold me! He’s sweet, he’s funny, yet he has a few moments where you can tell he’s holding back playing the character darker than needed. Had this gone for the R-rating (as originally rated before last-minute changes to secure a PG-13) or been a black comedy, I truly think Hardy would have been astounding.
The problems start to fall apart in the climax of the movie. Before this you’re painfully aware of who will win Lauren’s affections as only one of the male suitors is given any back-story and the script edges out Hardy painfully to a degree in order to force Pine on the audience so it’s only natural that you’ll figure out within ten seconds who will get the girl. With that, Lauren and FDR deserve each other because they’re pretty jerky characters. You never feel that FDR cares for Lauren because even though Tuck dated her first and FDR knows this, he doesn’t back down! It feels like this is all a game to him, even after the third act. Lauren herself knowingly dates the two men then takes umbrage with the knowledge they’re friends! I didn’t care who Lauren dated because she was a hypocrite. You’d think this is a straight romance but McG throws in an action plotline with FDR and Tuck hunting some type of drug dealer guy whose name I don’t remember, I just remember the actor was Hugo Stiglitz in Inglourious Basterds. The fact I don’t remember any of this plot makes the third act weak because everything with it is resolved in the last five minutes. It’s as if the scriptwriter realized there was an action story set up in the beginning and “oh, better resolve that.”
McG still can’t keep the camera on the action, and the third act is filled with holes. In terms of being a romance, the only lead that’s compelling is Hardy and his character is literally given the brush-off. If you’re looking for a mindless 90 minutes and some action to go with your romance, it’s a quick watch but don’t expect anything you’ll remember an hour after leaving the theater.