What happens when two top-notch CIA operatives set their sights on the same woman? Nothing terribly unexpected, so it seems. This Means War, a playful rom-com by Director McG, takes on the task of trying to appease action and romance audiences, and fails to do strike a chord with either. Hit the jump for our review of the Blu-ray.
In This Means War, two highly-trained government spies named FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) foil the nefarious plans of international terrorists without having one problem between them. Tuck, the more sensitive of the two, still struggles to find love after he and his wife separate, making him a single father who doesn’t feel fulfilled. FDR, on the other hand, loves his single life. He’s into fast cars, beautiful women, and keeping his heart free of entanglements. Tuck decides that he’s done with the single life, and being unable to just go out and find a date, he turns to an internet dating site, where he is paired with the emotionally-damaged, but still hopeful Lauren (Reese Witherspoon). Lauren and Tuck seem to hit it off, until FDR bumps into her soon after, and since she’s the only girl seemingly in town that knows Hitchcock movies, the two decide to compete to win her affections.
Beyond the somewhat interesting action twist, the film takes an easily-recognized journey through the story of the three main characters. The first 10-minutes gives audiences all the time they’ll need to figure out exactly how the movie will turn out, from character development to the not too well hidden surprise at the end. The story is ripe for clever plot twists that the writers decided not to take.
While the action element was the intended spice of the film, it feels like a tacked on plot device that never really seems to fit. In the beginning of the film, FDR and Tuck foil some sort of plot concocted by the not-too-nice-looking Heinrich (Til Schweiger). The plot itself is forgettable and not really explained, but the ensuing fight does manage to end with Heinrich’s brother’s death, something that makes Heinrich very upset. He decides to take revenge on the two interlopers. The problem is that this plot is barely a cause for tension, and beyond a few scant scenes, the villain is barely noticeable, even though FDR and Tuck are tasked with bringing him to justice. At no point does Heinrich feel like a threat to anyone.
There is some fun to be had in the 97-minute flick. Pine and Hardy have great chemistry together as on screen buddies/rivals, which manages to keep the narrative from getting dull. Whitherspoon, a veritable expert on playing quirky blondes in romantic comedies, does a perfect job filling the role yet again. Chelsea Handler, who plays Lauren’s best friend, Trish, steals the show. Her dialogue is funny, a tad on the crude side, but also gives the film a few heartfelt scenes. And Chelsea does the role perfectly. Also, though predictable, the story does manage to flow at an enjoyable pace.
The Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack does feature a few interesting extras. The uncensored gag reel is good for a few laughs, and the audio commentary by McG contains quite a few truthful moments from the director, including what didn’t work on the theatrical film. There are also three alternative endings to watch through, so audiences can pick their favorite and pretend that’s how it actually ended. The Bachelorette Party extra is good for about four minutes of fun, but doesn’t add much to the film experience.
Overall, This Means War is at least a passable distraction and less-than-annoying rom-com. The action scenes never take off and the story follows a safe, predictable path, but the performances by the cast keep the narrative flowing. It’s just a shame that the film doesn’t take more chances and give viewers something new that’s equal parts shootouts and heart-felt romance with a fresh narrative.
Movie: C+ Blu-Ray: C+