The Lost Reviews are reviews that our Editor produced for another publication but, for one reason or another, never got published.
It’s not because they’re shit. Honest.
One word. No vowels.
This Means War (out recently on DVD) pitches two top CIA operatives, Tuck (Hardy) and FDR (Pine), against each other as they use every weapon in their armoury to win the heart of Lauren (Witherspoon).
The film opens with a massive gunfight in which director McG tries to be John Woo. But this isn’t Hard Bolied, and it’s not even Hard Target. Hell, This Means War isn’t even Hard Rain. After the op goes wrong, Tuck and FDR are “grounded” by their stereotypical ‘angry black captain’ (the talented Angela Bassett wasted in such a small role).
While out of action Tuck and FDR fall for the same woman, Lauren. Lauren is an executive working for a Which?-like company; fastidiously comparing products and their features. I wonder if that skill will come into play when she has to decide between the two ‘secret’ agents who fall for her.
Yes, it will. Like everything else in the film, this aspect is telegraphed by the writers like someone who nudges and winks at you at all the ‘important’ or ‘ironic’ parts in a story their mate is telling in the pub. It leaves literally nothing for the audience to figure out themselves.
I’m also pretty sure CIA agents don’t have to keep their profession a secret from the families. I learnt that from Homeland. The fact Tuck’s estranged family think he’s a travel agent is straight out of the Hollywood big book of things that only happen in films. Like stopping an elevator to have sex with someone. Or a woman responding to pretty severe sexual harassment by saying “if I say yes, will you go away?”
Oh wait, that also happens in This Means War.
The biggest insult to the audience’s intelligence, though, comes in the form of a conversation about film between FDR and Lauren. Trying to pick up Lauren in a video store, FDR recommends Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. Lauren responds by calling it “second-tier film”, and appears to dismiss all of his work pre-1960. Including Notorious, an infinitely superior film also about two spies who fall in love with the same woman.
This from the director who gave us Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.
Bar one or two scenes in which Tom Hardy takes the film by the scruff of the neck and almost wills it into being something better, This Means War is cynical and clichéd with no heart whatsoever. Why not take FDR’s advice and watch The Lady Vanishes instead?