out of Five
Running time: 98
This Means War is ridiculous from beginning to end but it's also well acted and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, thanks to engaging performances and a script that successfully excuses its slightly dodgy premise.
What's it all about?
Directed by McG (real name Joseph McGinty Nichol), This Means War stars Chris Pine and Tom Hardy as Frank and Tuck, a pair of rough-and-tumble best friend CIA agents who get grounded by their boss (an underused Angela Bassett) after their latest escapade in Hong Kong, during which their main target (Til Schweiger) escaped. Divorced from his wife (Abigail Spencer) and missing his young son (John Paul Ruttan), sensitive Tuck decides to do some internet dating and falls for Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), but things get complicated when Frank meets her shortly afterwards and falls for her too.
When Tuck and Frank discover they're both dating Lauren (who doesn't know they know each other), they come to a gentleman's agreement and decide to let her choose between them, only for both men to crack and start using the agency's surveillance teams, weapons and gadgetry to sabotage each other's dates. Meanwhile, a conflicted Lauren struggles to choose between the two men and seeks the advice of her married best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler).
Witherspoon is as adorable as ever and does enough cutesy agonising to excuse the whole two-timing issue, while Pine and Hardy generate strong, likeable chemistry together (their bromance is at least as important as the central romance), even if that chemistry isn't quite there in their scenes with Witherspoon. On top of that, Chelsea Handler takes the wise-cracking best friend role to new levels and steals every scene she's in, nabbing (and quite possibly ad-libbing) all the best lines in the process.
McG keeps things ticking along at a decent pace and the script is nicely structured, escalating the ridiculousness (“Make it rain,”) until it's time for Schweiger to show up again and provide an action-packed finale. In addition, the film is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny in places, even if you feel a bit guilty about it afterwards.
Apart from its preposterous premise, the main problem is that the central romance never really convinces (just as the outcome is never really in any doubt, particularly once Abigail Spencer makes an appearance) and it's fair to say that with a less charming cast, this wouldn't have worked at all.
While never quite convincing on an emotional level, This Means War is still surprisingly enjoyable, thanks to a witty script, winning central performances from Pine, Witherspoon, and Hardy and a scene-stealing supporting turn from Chelsea Handler.