The Reel Deal


A Reel Deal Film Review

Film Insight by Tyler Malone

February 2012

Reel Rating: 1.5 out of 5


This Means War is a romantic-comedy buddy-cop action flick. It’s all those things partially, and none of those things wholly. There are parts that are romantic, sure, and the piercing blue eyes of all three of the leads (Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) will have both men and women weak-of-heart in full swoon. There is comedy certainly, even a few parts that succeeded in coaxing a laugh out of my exceedingly cynical self. And there are a whole lot of action set pieces (some better than others).

The problem with This Means War though is twofold. First, as often as it gets things right–be it the romance or the comedy or the action–it also gets them all wrong in equal or greater amounts. Second, the movie never coheres into one film, but always feels disjointed, incongruous–like two or three different films spliced together in the editing room. But it wasn’t in post-production that the problems began, no, the film started with such a tone-deaf screenplay that it’s no wonder it ended in anything but disharmony.

Grafting imitation Antonio Prohías Spy vs. Spy schtick onto a rom-com core is a weird premise that would take a certain amount of finesse to make work. McG, the too-cool-to-have-a-real-name director of this movie, just doesn’t have what it takes to pull something like this off. He imbues the film with so much “cool,” that we’re reminded how uncool it actually is, and so much “cleverness,” that its true uncleverness stares us in the face. It ends up feeling like a poor man’s Charlie’s Angels (another of McG’s movies). Yet, instead of making one think of other movies, the whole thing invites odd comparisons to terrible reality competition dating shows. Scott Tobias, over at The Onion, called the movie “a three-episode marathon of MTV’s Next.” I don’t think a better explanation of this film exists. Infuse MTV’s Next with a whole lot of extra testosterone, and put some spots for Chelsea Lately in the commercial breaks, and that’s pretty much all this film boils down to.

There’s also the interesting caveat that, even though it is technically on some level a rom-com, neither of the leading men have nearly as much romantic chemistry with the leading lady as they do with each other. I hate how the term “bromance” has permeated every discussion of any film with two male leads, but if there’s ever a movie that warrants using it, this is it. This is a bromance battle royale–instead of either one really focusing on the girl, they seem more preoccupied with each other (or the possibility of what each other might be doing with the girl). This is the kind of movie that queer studies courses would be able to pick over for homosexual subtext for years to come–that is, if they wanted to waste their time on something this artless and classless (which I highly doubt).

This Means War is a bewildering movie with three actors who have all proven themselves in various degrees to be worthy of praise: Tom Hardy in just about everything he’s been in, Chris Pine in the newest iteration of Star Trek, and Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde (which was much better and funnier than it had a right to be). Here they’re lost in a Hollywood clunker–one that tries so hard to think “outside the box,” but instead of emancipating itself and finding something original to say, it ends up thinking itself into countless other boxes. It proves that for certain segments of the Hollywood (lack of) imagination, the box which one would potentially want to get outside of is just a series of Russian dolls–when they think outside of one box of unoriginal ideas and they think themselves directly into another box of unoriginal ideas. Yes, cliché after cliché after cliché pile up–not just clichés from one genre, but from three major genres (and however many other sub-genres). It’s not all bad, I suppose, because it’s true that if you throw enough action, comedy and romance at a wall, some of it will stick, but the soupy mix of shit that falls to the floor ain’t too pretty.

This Means War means failure.

This Means War is a film directed by McG and written by Timothy Dowling, Simon Kinberg and Marcus Gautsen. It stars Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy. Two top CIA operatives wage an epic battle against one another after they discover they are dating the same woman.


Official Site: This Means War

IMDb: This Means War

Written by Tyler Malone

Photography Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Design by Jillian Mercado


Press Photo from This Means War, Photography Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

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