This Means War (review)

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This Means War red light Tom Hardy Reese Witherspoon Chris Pine

Guy vs. Guy

It’s cute, ain’t it, how women are so easily manipulated? Show ’em some art and fake some bullshit about it, pet a rescue dog like you mean it, take her to meet your Granny, and she’s totally yours. Yeah, like in the sex way. She’ll never see through you, because she’s just a girl, and her ladybrain is only looking for reasons to make you her baby daddy anyway. By the time she discovers you’ve been faking it all along, it’ll be too late! Her lady hormones will be on the hook.
So romantic, this This Means War movie! Reese Witherspoon is the willing dupe of both Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, because apparently good-looking guys suddenly become even more attractive when they are competing with their best friend to get a woman into bed, and cheating and lying and spying along the way in order to do it. Good thing Reese is willing to play along, and give herself a one-week window in which to choose between these two boys, whom she doesn’t know know each other, and whom she doesn’t know happen to be CIA superspies. They’re like James Bond minus the suave, plus the sexual desperation. At least Bond never pretended not to be a humongous pig.

I’d call this How to Lose a Spy in 10 Days, except all along I was rooting for nothing but for Witherspoon (Water for Elephants, How Do You Know) to realize what a couple of jerks both guys are and to dump them both in favor of some genuinely cool guy who doesn’t have to cheat in order to win her affections. Or else that she’d turn out to be a spy who’s playing them. Anything that would put her on an even footing with Hardy (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Inception) and Pine (Unstoppable, Star Trek). Because without that even footing… well, then, she’s just a gal who gets tricked not once but twice, and loves it. Not cool.

Maybe we’re meant to take this as a metaphor for actual non-stupid-movie relationships, that men lie and cheat and women are happy to be fooled? If so: ugh.

I guess director McG (Terminator Salvation, We Are Marshall) — who here directs an action sequence as if he’s an ADD-afflicted 12-year-old — felt he needed to branch out into creepy, stalkerish rom-coms. Maybe he thinks he’s spearheading a trend: the total surveillance romance (total surv-romance?). It’s cute (not) that Pine and Hardy use the full force of federal law to conduct their competitive wooing — the PATRIOT Act is literally a punchline here — but who needs privacy! Everyone tells their BFF everything about their sex lives anyway — like Witherspoon does to her pal Chelsea Handler (Hop) — so what’s the diff if someone’s got it all on a flash drive?

One of the three credited screenwriters — Simon Kinberg — wrote the wonderful spy-versus-spy action romance Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and if McG was aiming for a similarly screwball shoot-’em-up, he has failed. Miserably. (One of the others, Timothy Dowling, is responsible for the appalling Adam Sandler rom-com Just Go with It, which this is more on a par with.) There’s nothing smart or sophisticated here, just a lot of cheap cheesiness pretending to be elegant and chic. Cuz the guys may be playing her, but gosh darn if they don’t both actually fall for her too (because, you know, dating as a hobby and a contact sport, which was their initial sole aim, is completely removed from having a relationship with another human being, so they’re surprised by this turn of events). And suddenly everyone morphs from a cartoon character into people we’re meant to feel something (other than contempt) for. By the time This Means War gets to the moment in which we’re handed a bag of would-be sad for one of these guys, my rage meter was off the scale. After all the romantic swindling that’s gone on, after we’ve seen these two men behave like schoolkids squabbling over a toy on the playground, and the woman in the middle treated like a prize to be awarded to the winner… now they’re abruptly real people with genuine emotions?

Maybe the movie shouldn’t have been keeping their humanity under cover all that time…

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