This Means War is by no means… err… no way a very good movie but because of the cast and at least an interesting premise, makes for an enjoyable, if not forgettable, action romantic comedy. Reese Witherspoon is as charming as ever and the rising stars of Chris Pine and Tom Hardy both show they can be leading men. The Blu-ray offers up excellent audio and video transfers and an OK selection of features that don’t amount to a whole lot.
Genre(s): Action, Comedy
Fox | PG13/Unrated – 97/104 min. – $39.99 | May 22, 2012
Directed by: McG
Writer(s): Timothy Dowling and Marcus Gautesen (story), Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg (screenplay)
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Til Schweiger
Theatrical Release Date: February 17, 2012
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 36.0 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.25/5
“It’s Spy against Spy.”
McG’s latest, and follow-up to the disappointing, semi-flop Terminator Salvation, is an inanely fun action-romantic/comedy that really isn’t great with standard, unimaginative action scenes, cardboard cutout characters and a story that seems better suited for television than a feature film. Even so, This Means War succeeds thanks in part to the three leads which makes the movie all the more tolerable, perhaps more than it deserves.
This Means War has a “James Bond”-like opening credits sequence before we meet our two protagonists: CIA Agents FDR (CHRIS PINE) and Tuck (TOM HARDY) who are reminded by their supervisor (ANGELA BASSETT), in an awkward bit of dialogue, about their mission and that it’s a “covert” operation; have to wonder what kind of agents needed that reminder… The mission involve capturing GBG (TIL SCHWEIGER), a.k.a. Generic Bad Guy, and his younger brother after making a swap for some dangerous object that’s never explained, nor does it matter to the plot. The op goes sideways after gunfire erupts. GBG makes his escape off the roof, parachuting down to safety but his bro isn’t so fortunate and apparently wasn’t also wearing a chute, falling to his death, grasping a piece of FDR’s suit in his hand. Now GBG is pissed and is out for revenge.
Thanks to the fiasco that spilled out into the streets, FDR and Tuck are chewed out by the boss and are subsequently assigned to desk duty. Bored out of their minds, FDR encourages Tuck – who is divorced and has a son he barely has a relationship with – to get back into the dating game.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to Lauren (REESE WITHERSPOON) who works as a product tester; she too doesn’t have much of a social life as reminded by her obligatory quirky best friend, Trish (CHELSEA HANDLER). Unbeknownst to Lauren, Trish signs her up on a dating website where one of the match’s profiles happens to be Tuck. The pair meets for a coffee date and seems to hit it off. FDR is close by for support in case it didn’t go well when he runs into Lauren as she’s leaving her date. The encounter is feisty which intrigues FDR who is a playboy at heart and uses his position at the CIA to find her identity and set up another encounter.
So Lauren now has two good looking dudes to choose from: will it be the more sensitive Tuck or the self-confident ladies’ man, FDR? And what of these two best friends? Well, they find out the other is dating the same girl and despite FDR’s tepid, and backhanded, offer to back off, the pair make a pact to let Lauren decide. Of course, given their set of skills and resources available, they try to get the upper hand on the other while on Lauren’s side; she struggles to choose the right guy for her.
Also, easily forgettable is the subplot involving GBG’s revenge as he tracks down the agents responsible for his bro’s death and as you might guess, Lauren gets right in the middle of it all.
This Means War is the kind of movie I shouldn’t like, even despise but for whatever reason, the comedy works and the few action scenes, albeit generic, meld well together making for a fun movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn’t overstay its welcome (even the extended cut which is 7-minutes longer). Another reason the movie works as well as it does is because of the cast.
Even though on the surface it might seem like Reese Witherspoon is beyond her years to play this part, but damn she still has that girl-next-door charm that has done so well for her all these years and compared to other actresses who have tried to hold on to their youthful romantic lead (see Sandra Bullock and Cameron Diaz). Also doing well are Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, both of whom actually are believable as best friends and although they crossed many boundaries both morally and legally, they’re likable enough to keep you engaged with the plot which, honestly, does get a bit ridiculous; funny, but ridiculous nonetheless.
In regards to the direction is concerned, McG isn’t bad, but he’s pretty average. His movies tend to be over stylized (esp. the Charlie’s Angels movies), albeit not nearly as much as somebody like Zach Snyder’s, whose set to direct his own Terminator with the upcoming The Man of Steel. For This Means War, it’s more or less paint by numbers, going from point A to point B efficiently enough and on that front, McG does well enough, just nothing special.
On the whole, This Means War isn’t bad and actually is at times, quite fun but it’s like junk food in that it tastes good at the time but you might regret it later. Even so, the movie works due to cast chemistry and the story itself is at least unique enough to make it stand out from other action-comedies that have come before.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.5/5
This release comes in a standard Blu-ray case. There is no slip cover. Although there’s a nice selection of features, unfortunately there isn’t a behind-the-scenes featurette.
Audio Commentary (Extended Cut Only) – Director McG goes solo and offers up a track which goes into details about how some shots were done and while some of it is a narrating than actual commenting, he seems to be an amiable guy that makes it an interesting commentary. What I especially like is that McG is honest on what doesn’t work just as much as what does work…
Bachelorette Party (4:18; HD) – This is some extra footage that takes place after the events in the film. The extras casting includes Whitney Cummings for those interested.
Deleted Scenes (15:41; HD) – There are six deleted scenes and while they’re fine, as explained by McG in his optional commentary, they’re redundant or for the sake of pacing.
Alternate Endings (6:55; HD) – Three alt. endings are included and each is different enough from the theatrical version (albeit not in a significant matter). One takes place at a warehouse as GBG makes Lauren choose who dies (where it goes into the same chase sequence); the other has Lauren choosing the other guy; and the last has the guys saving each other. This includes an optional commentary with McG.
Gag Reel (3:59; HD) – You know the drill: line flubs and general on-set tomfoolery.
Alternate Opening Concept (8:53; HD) is a pre-viz/storyboard sequence that was proposed but obviously not shot. This includes an optional commentary with McG.
Theatrical Trailer (1:39; HD)
BD-Live – There’s a portal to more goodies… ok, not really.
Previews – Neighborhood Watch (now known as The Watch), The Three Stooges
The set also includes a DVD/Digital Copy combo disc.
VIDEO – 4.75/5
This Means War arrives on Blu-ray with a sharp-looking 1080p high-definition transfer. The film, presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio, has a high level of detail and is fairly heavy in film grain and noise littered throughout, although it’s not overwhelming and helps give it a film-like quality. The color array is fairly heavy though I suspect this is how McG intended it to be rather than an issue with the transfer. Black levels also look good and don’t divulge and flaws like artifacting or pixilation.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is also quite solid throughout. The dialogue levels are decent coming from the center speaker with some front action also being present here and there. The front and rear channels primarily are used for the various action scenes or off-camera sounds. The track isn’t the best but still dynamic enough for a home theater although the LFE channel could’ve used a bit of a boost.
OVERALL – 4.0/5
Overall, This Means War is by no means… err… no way a very good movie but because of the cast and at least an interesting premise, makes for an enjoyable, if not forgettable, action romantic comedy. Reese Witherspoon is as charming as ever and the rising stars of Chris Pine and Tom Hardy both show they can be leading men. The Blu-ray offers up excellent audio and video transfers and an OK selection of features that don’t amount to a whole lot.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.