This Means War (2012)

(On Cable TV, November 2013) On paper, This Means War has a terrific (if risky) premise: What if two spies vied for the same woman?  What could they do with the resources of the state at their disposal if the goal was all-and-out romance?  It’s a promising idea, tempered only by the balance required to tone down the unbound misogynistic stalkerism inherent in the premise.  But that’s asking far too much of director McG’s rather silly take on the idea, as he’s barely able to present the basic idea in an entertaining fashion.  The fault, to be clear, isn’t in leads Chris Pine, Tom Hardy or Reese Witherspoon: All three are capable actors more than able to use their established screen persona to elevate the film above its true weight. But it’s just not a good script, and McG’s execution doesn’t do much to make it better –to the point where it’s easy to wonder what happened to the guy who delivered two relatively successful Charlie’s Angels film in the more or less the same vein.  It’s easy to blame a mid-sized budget: This Means War was visibly shot in Vancouver (all the US Post boxes in the world can’t hide the Vancouver Public Library, President’s Choice breakfast cereal, or transform an HMV store into a video-rental place) and its obvious Hollywood gloss (spies in shiny high-tech offices, implausible apartments, CIA having access to priceless paintings, a foreign national working for the CIA… aaaagh.) only make it a lazy, contemptuous film.  The most infuriating thing about it may be how it makes a mess out of a can’t-miss idea, a director who’s done good things in the past, and three actors who basically show up to play their usual kind of role.  (Tom Hardy is particularly wasted given his chance to riff off his violent-guy persona into something more accessible.)  While there are a few suitable scenes of mayhem, a few good quotes and the occasional directorial flourish, there’s very little in This Means War that works on a sustained basis.  It’s the kind of Hollywood film that gives a bad name to Hollywood films, and the fact that they shot a film set in Los Angeles in Vancouver may be all that is required to be said.

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