Saturday, February 18, 2012

This Means War

Like a Boss

This Means War is probably one of the most deliberately misunderstood film in McG's filmography, probably perhaps he's fallen out of favour with many, like in M Night Shyamalan's case, where everything they touch gets slammed for any reason. This film may seem like it's a ripe piece of romantic comedy, but it celebrates Bromance quit unabashedly in spy versus spy fashion, and is more of a trip down the brotherly love avenue than one about two best friends trying their utmost in getting the girl of their dreams while sabotaging the other's chances, as the trailer will have you hoodwinked.

Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, two actors who are seeing their stock go up in Tinseltown recently, star as FDR and Tuck, two CIA operatives based in Los Angeles who are the best in the business (as always). They work well together in country and overseas, they track each other's movements, they cover each other's backs, in essence they know what the other stands for, and just how to provide support. For instance when Tuck decides to go meet up with a girl he knew from the internet, FDR is just around the corner in case his buddy meets up with a psycho and needs to bail. That's what best friends are for.

Tuck meets consumer product test company CEO Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) whose trash talking friend Trish (Chelsea Handler) created an online profile for her in a dating site that Tuck used. They meet, they like each other, but for the sake of plot convenience has Lauren bump into the persistent FDR, where at first they never had any chance of hooking up if not for Lauren to save some face when her ex boyfriend and his fiance come walking down the street. So begins the chase that you see in the trailer where the two men show off to each other the girl they are interested in wooing, except that the context was a little misplaced, with FDR at that point being but a little bit obnoxious about his pursuit of Lauren.

Written by Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg from a story by the former and Marcus Gautesen, this is one of those narratives that you can whip up in 5 minutes on a computer program that automatically churns out screenplay with the input of certain keywords. Everything falls into place in very formulaic fashion from beginning right to the end, leaving little room for surprises or suspense. All the good gags can be found in the trailer, so don't hold your breath for something else to come up for laughs. It's entertainment boiled down to the lowest common denominator, so if you're in for something that's harmless and mindless, this will be it.

Don't expect anyone to lose out too, given that this has its intent to be a mass appeal crowd pleaser and knows better than to insult either fan base. Moreover, it's likely the agent representatives of the two male stars would have negotiated screen time, and who triumphs over whom, and with "Versus" type films amongst two equals, it's all mapped out eventually such that everyone wins in the end - this is no spoiler, but a given. There's a deliberation in keeping a character under wraps from the any preview, but once this character appears, you'd have guess how it's all going to pan out, from who's ending up with whom and how everything got resolved.

Still, there are the rare plus points. Technically there's a scene set up that weaved in and around Lauren's home while the two would be suitors independently infiltrates the place to set up a mother-load of bugging devices unknown to each other's presence, and you have to give credit for its meticulous planning and logistical set up for that one continuous tracking shot. The other point somehow boils down a little bit closer to home with the abuses civil servants find themselves getting into and caught. Both FDR and Tuck utilize national resources from million dollar drones to countless of colleague man hours simply to keep up with the shenanigans of the other camp, under the guise of surveying a potential person of interest, pardon the pun. If I were Director CIA, I'd have them all fired. While this is only a movie and shouldn't be taken seriously, I suppose who knows what goes on behind closed doors since there's no one watching the watchmen, and abuses like these can be exploited without anyone the wiser.

Resse Witherspoon still doesn't convince me that she has romantic lead qualities to make two hunks fall so hard for her, while Chris Pine and Tom Hardy looked more comfortable playing their roles opposite each other than with Witherspoon, making the bromance very much more interesting that the double date romance it was supposed to be. Throw in the rote thrash talking character whose vulgar dialogues serve only to bring in cheap laughs, and it's no wonder why many will roll their eyes at McG, wondering if that's really necessary. Til Schweiger got terribly wasted as the token villain with no personality, no threat and no purpose, only as fodder for our heroes to brush aside with ease.

That said, this is ultimately a film targeted at the Valentine's Day weekend crowd, so make love, not war. A lightweight date film that's perpetually stuck at first gear.

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