HST… Film Review: This Means War

This_Means_WarZac: This Means War is the latest film from director McG, whose previous efforts I have had a lot of fun with.  The Charlie’s Angels film and Terminator Salvation are at their worst fun action films and that is what I hoped for here.  Sadly, I was ultimately disappointed with the end product, even with all the actors doing a pretty good job.

Lauren: Disappointed, did we see the same movie? Matter of fact, I’m really starting to think that my sister and I saw something else, because we loved it way more than most from what I’ve seen with that good old tomato of rot.

Going in I was expecting to see something fun as well, but I wasn’t really expecting an action film as you were. I assumed they were going to play up the romance side of things, mixing a little action to just hold up the fact that they are spies, which is exactly what they did, all the while giving them a plethora of resources to use in their mission to be the man the girl chooses in the end. So though the action wasn’t the best, it was decent enough to be passable.

However, this is not to say that they do not have some fun “action” moments throughout, such as one moment of intense paintballing. However, I think the one time they really went choreographed outside the realm of fighting ended up being my favorite scene. As Reese Witherspoon’s character spends a night in alone making a good ole bag of popcorn, the two agents fighting over her take the opportunity to bug her house and do recon, all at the same time. Witherspoon was actually dancing as her own character, but the choreography within how this scene played out as the three moved around the rather limited space was pretty impressive because of how smoothly it was pulled off. You can’t tell me moments like this didn’t make you smile.

Zac: I agree, the bugging scene was good (and in one take), and there were more than a few enjoyable scenes throughout the movie.  The film is very watchable and entertaining enough in the theater, it just doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny.

Before I get into that anymore I want to comment a bit more on the action.  I was ok with it not being an action movie, that is fine. It’s just that all of the action beats really sucked; paintball scene excluded.  One of the great things about McG’s eye for action is that it is always very fluid and easy to tell what is going on, and that is just not the case here at all.  Everything is quick cutting and too close to the action, making all of the action beats almost completely incomprehensible.  The CGI is also terrible whenever utilized in the film, and the climactic scene is ruined by a hilariously bad CG car roll.  This is all just completely to the contrary of McG’s previous work and made even more confusing due to some really slick single takes (like the aforementioned bugging scene) sprinkled out throughout the film to compare to.

So yeah, the film wasn’t an action movie, but it tried to tack some bits on that were forced and poorly executed.

Lauren: Ok, I definitely see where you are coming from and can agree to an extent, but I still think the good outweighs the bad for me (a fight between the two added to the list of action bits). So though it might falter slightly here, it also makes up for it greatly in the casting.

Before I get to the men, the one thing I can say is that Reese Witherspoon does what she can with the role she is given, but let’s face it, This Means War is about the men and the lengths they are willing to go to in order to mess with the other one. Chris Pine gets the role of the player in need of a woman to teach him what love is, and though this put a damper on my full enjoyment of Pine’s character, his relationship with his grandparents did get to me as much as it swayed Witherspoon into seeing the good in him. However, for me Pine doesn’t hold a candle to Tom Hardy as the full hearted man looking for a woman to share his life with. Both had their plusses, but he had me fawning over him hard. But no matter which guy I would have chosen of the two, the playfulness between them in their brotherly relationship is really what keeps this film going.

Zac: I think Witherspoon deserves more credit than you give her as she really brought the funny.  I haven’t liked her in anything as of late and this is the first time in awhile I enjoyed her performance through and through.  She smartly brought her buddy Chelsea Handler along for the ride and you can tell that Handler brings the best out of Witherspoon.  Handler also made me laugh quite a bit.

The boys are as good as you advertise as well and I agree with Hardy besting Pine in the battle for best guy.  Their chemistry is great, but their relationship is completely dictated by the need for the story; all of the relationships are.  They don’t earn a single relationship beat throughout the film, whether it’s between the guys or one of them and Witherspoon.  I mean, the obligatory third act wedge couldn’t be any more artificial, and the reconciliation just magically happens.  I loved the guys in that latter moment, but it would have been great had they earned it.

There are zero conflicts in the film, things just simply happen for the sake of the plot needing to go somewhere, nothing is earned.

Lauren: I’m not saying Witherspoon was bad, I just thought she played second string to the boys so that at times I wondered why they were fighting over her. But this was infrequently, and I did really like her performance as well, I just meant that it was sad she just seemed to be along for the ride at times, making the third option of neither guy ending up with her as strong an option as the other two.
And I was actually rather impressed with Handler. Other than her new show’s pilot episode I haven’t seen too much of her acting, but I was really impressed with how natural she seemed here. So in a way, just as the boys have some of their best moments together, Witherspoon has some of hers with Handler. That and Handler did get a pretty great send off.
I don’t know about things being earned or not as you say, but I know in the end I simply enjoyed the ride. Sometimes it was dampened slightly by a few “sabotages” that really didn’t seem that bad (you would think the sprinkler system being turned on would make the moment sexier), making it debatable if the filmmakers were scared that if they went too far it would really turn the audience against a character, but I still enjoyed way more than I didn’t. And Pine going unconscious as the music slowed down? Pure awesomeness.

Zac: The film’s flaws don’t make the movie unwatchable by any means, things just started adding up and it became too much to not notice and just enjoy the show.  Things are also painfully predictable and I wasn’t surprised at just about any twist in the picture; especially in the third act.  The film has plenty of laughs, good performances, and a couple of slick shots, but as a romance or action film it fails; it even gets Witherspoon’s romantic end game wrong.

Lauren: I can’t agree with those last few words more, and even that it falters in the realm of action and romance (of sorts, it is quite the bromance); with that said, I couldn’t help but love the film because of how much it made me laugh. Problems yes, deal breakers, no.

Lauren: B+        

Zac: C-

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