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THIS MEANS WAR

SYNOPSIS:
When two top CIA operatives and good friends, the suave Franklin Delano Roosevelt 'FDR' Foster (Chris Pine) and the rugged James 'Tuck' (Tom Hardy) unwittingly begin to date the same woman, Lauren Scott (Reese Witherspoon), a senior product evaluator for a leading consumer advocate publication, an epic battle begins. It starts when Lauren's best friend, Trish (Chelsea Handler) takes matters into her own hands and signs Lauren to an on-line dating service - which Tuck had recently, and reluctantly, joined. She has hardly said goodbye after their first date when she bumps into FDR in a video store - and he charms her into a date.

Review by Louise Keller:
It has to say something about the film, when the nasty, bad-guy villain, who has little screen-time and next to no lines, is the most credible and appealing thing on screen. Especially when he isn't billed as one of the stars, nor does his role have any real connection with the main game, being the love triangle between two CIA agents dating the same girl. As handsome as all get-out, acclaimed German movie star and director Til Schweiger plays the international arms dealer, whose token role somehow rates higher on the credibility stakes than all the others put together.

It's a shame, because the idea of the two CIA agents (Pine and Hardy), using their high-tech gadgets and intelligence to spy on each other as they each try to win the girl (Witherspoon), might have worked. Conceptually there are shades of Mrs & Mrs Smith: Simon Kinberg, who penned the highly successful Pitt/Jolie actioner, co-wrote the script with Timothy Dowling, which may have blinkered the filmmakers and director McG to the film's potential.

I'm being pretty hard on the film, which does have appeal, albeit to an undemanding audience, because it could be so much better. Pine and Hardy are both appealing as the guys who would take a bullet for each other, while they slog it out in the battle of the heart. For my money Hardy comes out best - there's a blatant honesty about his performance that overtakes the script's sugar-coated contents.

There are some laughs as both FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) get the better of each other in their attempts at one upmanship, while Lauren (Witherspoon) confides her every thought and concern to her brash best friend Trish (Handler). Handler, who spits out honesty like lemon pips, has a few good lines, although her character jumps straight from the set of a TV sit-com. Witherspoon plays her role as intended and looks pretty in ultra short skirts that show off her shapely legs, but it's all just pretty - and shallow.

The film's greatest problem is that the stakes aren't high enough, nothing is played for real and the audience is treated like a sucker. Take the scene when both FDR and Tuck are stealthily bugging Lauren's apartment. Neither knows the other one is there and Lauren is happily prancing about in the kitchen while both men are doing what they have come to do. Even the action scene at the beginning of the film, when the arms dealer escapes from a covert mission in Hong Kong, is uncomfortably unbelievable. Mr and Mrs Smith this is not.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
You'd have to be in the mood for a silly escapist movie to go along with This Means War, a concoction which is not meant to be taken seriously at any level. Certainly not about Tom Hardy and Chris Pine being top CIA agents - especially as they mess up their assignment at the start of the film enough to be grounded by their hardnosed boss (Angela Bassett). But there is a good reason for them to be grounded: so they can concentrate on chasing Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), the consumer products tester they both meet on the same day - without knowing it.

Witherspoon is her cute and frilly acting persona self and works well as the young blonde who starts with no men in her life and suddenly has two, both cute, as her friend and self appointed love life handler Trish (Chelsea Handler) is quick to assure her. Handler has some of the funniest lines and delivers every time; she saves the film from being really tiresome and cheesy.

The premise pivots on two CIA agents - with access to surveillance gear and technology - vying for the same girl. To make it juicier, they are best friends. Hardy, playing Tuck the British lad who is a bit rough around the edges and has an ex wife (Abigail Spencer) and young son, makes a credible character and engages us well. Chris Pine's suave and smoothtalking FDR is more like a manufactured product.

A perfunctory subplot is carelessly thrown into the mix to give the guys some CIA cred and as 'proof' (to us) that they really are CIA, but this never gets the adrenaline going, not even in the climactic Los Angeles freeway chase.

The devices pile on top of each other as one unlikely scenario blends into another; some of the warring between the two guys is funny but you have to be quite forgiving to appreciate the foolery - it just isn't really grounded in anything. Director McG has made a McMovie; a take-away that doesn't satisfy but it's something for the eyes to chew on.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

THIS MEANS WAR (M)
(US, 2012)

CAST: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Chelsea Handler, Til Schweiger, Laura Vandervoort, Abigail Spencer, Warren Christie, Angela Bassett, David Koechner, John Paul Ruttan

PRODUCER: Simon Kinberg, Brent O'Connor, Robert Simonds, Jennifer Simpson, Will Smith, Reese Witherspoon

DIRECTOR: McG

SCRIPT: Timothy Dowling, Simon Kinberg

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Russell Carpenter

EDITOR: Nicolas De Toth

MUSIC: Christophe Beck

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Martin Laing

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 14, 2012







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