This Means War

Chris Pine and Tom Hardy prove that sometime "bros" really do come before, well, you know. Photo courtesy 20th Century Fox

At the risk of being bombarded with hate mail, I’m about to take a somewhat bold stance: “This Means War” is a good movie. It doesn’t break barriers or make any monumental leaps in the three genres – comedy, romance, and action – that it dabbles with, but the latest movie from the director that brought us travesties like Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle is enjoyable enough. There, I said it.

This Means War, starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy is a romance-injected action comedy set primarily in Los Angeles. Tuck (Hardy) and FDR Foster (Pine) are CIA agents and BFF’s who find themselves riding a desk after an operation in Hong Kong goes awry. When the two men become infatuated with the same woman (ironically almost at the same time), it’s only a matter of time before two friends so close realize they are pursuing the same conquest. In the spirit of friendly competition, the two agree to compete for Lauren (Witherspoon) and let the best man win. Lauren is left with the task of deciding between the two men she doesn’t know are CIA operatives at times with the help of her married spaz of a friend, Trish (Chelsea Handler).

I’ll be the first to admit that I went into this movie expecting to have, at best, mixed feelings about it. But as I began to look for flaws I found myself laughing quite a bit with, admittedly, a healthy amount of eye-rolling in between.

The movie has its fair share of cheesiness and you wouldn’t ever believe that Foster and Tuck are CIA agents in real-life. But the goofiness doesn’t harm the movie too much and helps the laughs quite a bit as you would expect real CIA operatives to be much more serious (and understandably, so). Also adding to the comedy is the surprising charm of Handler as Witherspoon’s enigma of a friend. She’s an obscene, vile, and sex-starved character that provides some of the best jokes in the entire movie.

This Means War

Courting Reese Witherspoon proves Tom Hardy has come a long way from mashing people's faces in in 'Warrior'. Photo courtesy 20th Century Fox

You won’t find any real emotion in the bonds of love the movie attempts to forge, but perhaps this makes “This Means War” all the more enjoyable for those not looking for a romantic comedy. Of course, this doesn’t stop the movie from trying really hard with some blatantly predictable plot turns. If you were looking for a unique ending to the classic love triangle fiasco you will undoubtedly be disappointed in this one.

But the real surprise of “This Means War” is the unexpected success in the pairing of Tom Hardy and Chris Pine. You didn’t need to look at the movie’s poster or trailer for longer than a few seconds before Hardy and Pine struck you as an odd couple to cast as best friends. Yet, the two deliver a memorable bond that delivers some pretty witty banter right up until the ending credits.

I can’t really explain why so many critics jumped down this movie’s throat and I have a feeling “This Means War” was simply a victim of critics being critics. I don’t think the movie tries to take itself too seriously which makes its flaws all the more forgivable. If you don’t take yourself too seriously when going to watch it, odds are you will probably enjoy the movie as well.

The largest amount of criticism seems to stem from the movie trying very hard to combine genres as it combines flashy action sequences with tongue-in-cheek one-liners and characters falling for one another. While I can’t say the strange hybrid works particularly well, I also can’t say the strange brew stops you from enjoying yourself. And if you’re the kind of person that can find charm in each of the three genres presented in “This Means War”, odds are you will be able to walk away saying that both your time and money were well spent.

The movie finished its opening weekend in fifth place behind Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Safe House, the latest Ghost Rider sequel, and The Vow, but is quite possibly a more well-rounded film than any of those three. I have only seen (and reviewed) one of those four (Safe House), but I can say quite confidently that “This Means War”, pound for pound, is a more entertaining product than Safe House. I can only assume the same bodes true for the other three. And, really, that’s where this movie is a real winner: entertainment value. This isn’t a good action film, a moving romance, or a particularly funny comedy, it’s a strange and captivating combination of all three. And as my cheesy title indicated, it’s worth watching. FINAL GRADE: B+

Follow Bryan Lienesch on Twitter @bclienesch!

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