This Means War? You bet it does! The artillery is ready, defence systems are a go and there’s enough ammunition to render the Great Wall of China a mere pile of dust. I’m not talking about the film; I’m talking about the war that I am waging on this violently terrible foray into the action-rom-com genre (think Mr and Mrs Smith or Knight and Day) by director McG (Charlie’s Angels). This exhausting and depressing load of claptrap is so completely horrible that I got up and left for several minutes; I had to compose myself from the seething anger that had engulfed me and prepare for the final onslaught of knuckle-dragging numbskullery that McG and his three writers were hurling at the screen. You guys, it’s really, really bad!
This Means War finds two CIA operatives, womaniser FDR (Chris Pine, Star Trek) and divorced father Tuck (Tom Hardy, Inception), fighting for the affections of product-safety tester, Lauren (Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line). FDR and Tuck use all their “covert” spy skills to undermine their opponent all while Lauren and her best buddy, the foul-mouthed Trish (Chelsea Handler of the E! talk show), are none the wiser. Angela Bassett occasionally pops up on screen to extol exposition before swiftly exiting stage left and depressing an entire legion of cinephiles that should be crying over what has happened to her career.
Here I was thinking The Descendants had a monopoly on the woman-hating game for early 2012, This Means War finds all new ways to insult 50% of the world’s population. Women, hey? Who needs ‘em? Not men, that’s who! Until they do, I guess. To list every reason why this film is a misogynistic mess would take all day, but need an example? The film’s ultimate insult comes during the bombastic climax when Lauren stands in the path of a fast-rolling, incoming exploding car and rather than get out of the way immediately, she looks left, then looks right… who will she choose? Who cares? Lauren is apparently a successful professional, but throw a handsome man in front of her and she becomes a googly-eyed idiot. Handler on the other hand? Well, the filmmakers make jokes about her looks, her voice, her age and literally throw her dignity into a lake. Real Valentine’s Day treat that is.
This film exists in a twilight zone universe filled with barely sentient female bodies who need to be fixed by men (the film’s big romantic crescendo has the “winner” telling Lauren to shut up). A universe where two hotties meet cute in a video store over a copy of The Vanishing remake from 1993 (What? Was pertinent thriller The Net already taken?) and Lauren says actual dialogue like “sex tie-breaker!” This Means War is barely competent in the action, the romance or the comedy, with only the charm of its leads occasionally offering respite. McF.
This Means War is released in Australian on February 16th
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hardy, Chris Pine, Chelsea Handler, Til Schweiger, John Paul Ruttan, Abigail Spencer, Rosemary Harris and Angela Bassett