This week’s ‘date movie’, director McG’s This Means War, is wrapped in an action blanket from the start for romcom lovers weary of lovelorn, sugary angst from the start. Thankfully, it doesn’t start in an idyllic Manhattan suburb either. It comes crashing into fun focus, James Bond style, in the oddly intriguing pairing of Tom Hardy and Chris Pine – yes, Bane and Kirk unite. It shamelessly tries to hook the male/tomboy viewer in with a blast of guns blazing to set the scene for what is effectively a wickedly entertaining love triangle, headed by the bubbly Reese Witherspoon as the object of the two studs’ desire.
FDR Foster (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) have been best friends and top CIA operatives for a long time, enjoying the job and its perks. After a failed relationship, Tuck decides he’ll try Internet dating, and meets up on a date with attractive Lauren (Witherspoon). As fate would have it, after the date ends, FDR happens upon Lauren too. The friends then wage an epic battle against one another after they discover they are dating the same woman, using their CIA arsenal for the job.
Incredulous scenario aside, it is possible to buy into the premise this film offers that two agents would get away with bugging and effectively stalking a young woman for their own gain, however uncomfortable – and frankly creepy – that idea sounds. And it’s the devilish part of the whole affair that you are actually condoning what is a very serious crime by guiltily enjoying the shenanigans. But it’s probably more due to the exciting trio of Reese, Hardy and Pine delivering some riotous chemistry, and the chalk-and-cheese fascination of watching Hardy in his first romcom role and forehead-challenged Pine (with a an even bigger quiff than normal) on screen having a ball playing bad lads.
Hardy still gets to be the tough guy – but with the soft centre – so it’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination to accept him in this role, and coupled with Tuck’s British self-depreciating nature in his personal life, Hardy sets him up to be the man who needs rescuing by the right woman. There is also an obvious self-mockery laced throughout the whole affair and the performances that keeps things all very tongue-firmly-in-cheek. Once you appreciate that, and combined with some thrilling self-destruction nature, it’s easy to invest in and thoroughly enjoy this.
Like every romcom, the eye candy is abundant and pristinely turned out, and Witherspoon is still very much a sweetheart to treasure in such a role at the ‘ripe old age of 36’ in romcom territory. Blessed with eternally youthful good looks, she still fits the part perfectly – unlike Jen Aniston who is getting a tad long in the tooth. Witherspoon brings her own brand of witty retorts and comical facial expressions to this part, and there is a hilarious scene when Lauren goes on an action-packed date with Tuck at a paint-balling park, allowing the actress to sum up how her date’s going with one gurn.
Sadly, thanks to a blatant pointer near the start with ‘doting dad’ Tuck showing some regret at a relationship lost, it’s plain to see how things are going to end – even if there is a moment of doubt at the end, which could have left the boys hanging (making a far better ending than the silly, overly contrived one).
That said this is the start of a new breed of sexy romcom that takes the genre out of its cosy, often urban environment, and adds a little zest to the mix – and yes, it does try hard to be appealing to more than the usual romcom fan by adding another angle to keep the genre interesting. This Means War is easily consumable, puerile entertainment with some devilish giggles to be had; the action romantic’s must-see in a sense.