By Lucy Jordan

Every so often, a film comes along that has ‘date night’ so clearly stamped across it that you can almost smell the focus group.  This Means War, a romantic comedy with an espionage twist, falls into this category.

In the opening scene, we are plunged straight into the middle of a Hong Kong CIA mission, complete with suitcase stuffed with $100 bills, a parachute, and a helicopter escape. Here we meet undercover CIA operatives and best friends FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy).

In an effort to get ‘back out there’, Tuck, with Hardy playing very much off type, joins a dating website, where he meets peppy product researcher Lauren (Reese Witherspoon). Their first date is a success and is only thwarted by Lauren’s chance meeting with FDR on her way home via the DVD store. After a lot of DVD based flirting, FDR eventually convinces Lauren to agree to a date with him, through what is supposed to be charming attrition.

Back at the CIA office during a ‘man chat’, the partners soon realise they are dating the same woman but decide to continue to do so, settling on a “May the best man win!” and the proviso that neither are allowed to sleep with her. What could go wrong?

The plot picks up when the friends employ their CIA underlings to spy on Lauren, to find out about her likes, dislikes, hobbies and previous boyfriends, and then use these to woo her.

This feels like an odd departure for Hardy, who made his name with brilliant performances in Inception and Bronson, and it shows, as he seems somewhat uncomfortable throughout. Pine is well suited to his role as a wile lothario, but is less convincing when attempting sincerity.

Witherspoon delivers a solid if slightly saccharine performance, with her versatility and charm allowing her to hop from heavier roles such as June Carter to flimsier ones such as this, and emerge relatively unscathed.

Director ‘McG’, of Charlie’s Angels fame, started his career directing music videos for bands such as Korn, Cyprus Hill and The Offspring, which may have something to do with his style over substance approach to film-making.

Espionage, one-upmanship and date sabotage ensue, with action and a few laughs along the way, but a lack of chemistry between the characters, the rolling out of one too many well worn romantic comedy clichés, and overuse of the word ‘intel’, keeps This Means War from being anything other than a good, but forgettable, yarn.

Verdict: [rating=3]

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.

  • Nice review. All of these leads try their hardest, but the script just lets them down too much with terrible jokes and very ugly feeling underneath this premise.