Written by: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Valentine’s Day is responsible for three things: Romantic comedies, unrealistic expectations in relationships, and raising my blood pressure! Sure, I could have seen The Vow this weekend but unless Channing Tatum is dancing I refuse to see his films so I settled on the lesser of two evils by seeing director McG’s rom-com This Means War. The film is a bit of an anomaly in the market as McG is predominately an action-oriented director and one of the film’s leads, Tom Hardy, is the last person I’d expect to see in a romantic comed. This Means War has some decent action and character interaction, but the third act is a mess and the ending is seen from literally the second scene. It’s cute and boasts one of the hottest men out there (sorry Chris Pine, not you) but its still suffers from rom-com syndrome. ***NOTE This is a spoiler-heavy review ***END NOTE
Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine) are two covert secret agents for the CIA. FDR beds any woman he sees with no interest in commitment while Tuck is recently divorced and looking for a meaningful relationship. Through a series of events they both meet the beautiful Lauren Scott (Reese Witherspoon) and unintentionally start dating her. When FDR and Tuck discover their girlfriends are one and the same, their friendship suffers and every CIA weapon comes into play.
I’m all for combining Spy vs. Spy with romance and in a nutshell, it works for this movie. The camaraderie between Tuck and FDR is the highlight as its implied these two men have seen some heavy stuff in their day to the point that Tuck says he’d take a bullet for FDR and vice versa. Their relationship could have been the set-up for a great bromance movie (or a romantic comedy version of Brokeback Mountain which I’d pay good money to see), but in the end you’ll just wish Lauren hadn’t ruined a good friendship and no matter what the movie tries to say at the end, their friendship is utterly ruined.
The humor is mostly derived from the over-the-top actions of Tuck and FDR as they use every illegal CIA maneuver to find out about Lauren’s life. The best scene involves them sneaking into her house as she dances around her house. Everything, from the cinematography, to the men sliding around the house, even Reese Witherspoon singing Montel Jordan’s “This is How We Do It” made me laugh…if only the movie could have sustained that.
The problem is you know from the go who will win Lauren’s heart at the end. Tuck does start dating Lauren first meeting her via a Match.com site. For the record, if men looking like Tom Hardy were on Match.com I’d be signed up right now! McG breaks my heart with every lie he tells! They have a successful date and Tuck is the guy who genuinely wants a relationship, to be with a person for 50 years and have a family….essentially the perfect male who doesn’t exist in the world. Immediately after their date Lauren meets FDR, the guy she’s completely incompatible with who sleeps with anything possessing breasts….essentially an asshole. Who do you think wins? The movie relies on the typical tropes of women finding charm and the ability to change a Lothario while the sweet guy gets tossed aside. The movie even throws out the fact that Tuck’s British as a flaw, proof that this script was written by a man (Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg) because any woman would easily find that as the deciding vote.
The script itself causes all the laziness because FDR is the only choice who dominates the screen time. We learn about his family, his tragic childhood, hell Lauren even meets his Nana (Rosemary Harris). What do we know about Tuck? He’s got an ex-wife (Abigail Spencer) and a kid. That’s it! On top of that, Lauren has sex with FDR first and the movie pretty much says whoever gets to bed the girl first, wins! Not only does the movie force you to like FDR, he’s the only option because the script never evenly distributes character to the other man! And at the end when poor Tuck’s heart is left trounced on the ground, Lauren and FDR make out while Tuck literally slinks away! And while they give him a tacked-on epilogue so it looks like everyone gets what they want, the final scene has FDR telling Tuck he slept with his ex-wife before they were together! As if FDR hasn’t already pissed on anything that would make their friendship return to its former glory, what good could have possibly come from that revelation, and in the last ten seconds no less. It felt like a giant F-you to Hardy’s character and to the audience! FDR isn’t a romantic lead, and he’s not even one of those jersk turned charmers you see in other rom-coms. He’s an asshole who doesn’t deserve a goldfish let alone friends or a girlfriend.
The actors don’t do much to help elevate the story either. Witherspoon plays the typical uptight, hot girl who doesn’t have a boyfriend because she’s super busy, yet two hot guys are beating the shit out of each other to date her. She’s abrasive, she’s bland, and she’s every woman in a romantic comedy. Pine’s character is nothing short of a manipulative egotist who you never feel loves Lauren, he’s only doing it to piss off Tuck, yet he’s the hero! The true shock for me was seeing Tom Hardy playing a romantic lead. I’ve seen everything Hardy’s done and while he’s been in romance films, he’s usually abrasive or somewhat insulting (his turn as Heathcliffe immediately jumps to mind). I mean this man played a violent, insane criminal in the under seen film Bronson so color me skeptical on first blush. Boy was I wrong. If this was a darker film or R-rated, Hardy would have soared. He’s sweet, gorgeous, and there are a few moments where he gets downright dark; the scene on the paintball field is one to watch. He’s a bit too safe and sweet at times but there are certain scenes where you can tell he’s holding back some type of snippy remark which would have been great.
Director McG broke my heart with Terminator Salvation and this movie didn’t help matters. Sure he put Tom Hardy in a rom-com but the film is a waste of his talent in favor of two actors who have played similar characters in countless other movies. The script is weak, the third act throws in a villain whose name I don’t even remember and never divides the time equally between the CIA and the romance, let alone the two men fighting for the love of one undeserving girl. If you’re a guy who has to see something with their girl this weekend, this has to be better than The Vow…but it’s not saying much.
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.