I showed up early for the 7:00 PM showing at the AMC multiplex. I felt that since this was a preview showing in advance of the standard opening on Friday the 17th, and it is Valentine’s Day – that this rom/com might even sell out the theater. Well it wasn’t a sell-out but the theater was pretty full.
Strange title for a romantic comedy, no? This Means War – does it mean that blood will flow? Actually it does as the film opens with a great shootout action sequence in Hong Kong. So says the graphic on the screen. They tell you it is Hong Kong but that wasn’t the case at all. Don’t believe everything you read. Call it a cinematic head-feint.Or maybe it was just imagination – or said another way: ‘Producer’s Conceit’. The two male leads – Chris Pine and Tom Hardy both play men employed by ‘The Company’ as field agents. This involves lots of ‘wet work’, chases, shootouts, and explosions. Just another day on the job for these two.
As it happens, they’re both soon back in their HQ. Only it’s not Langley, Va. – they tell us it is the LA CIA field office. Only it’s not LA either. The production was shot entirely in British Columbia in Canada. Both FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are looking at an image of their girl friends on their laptops. Well, what do you know? They’re dating the same woman – a certain Lauren – nicely played by Reese Witherspoon. So that’s the root cause of the title’s ‘War’. The two lads are going to wage war to win her affections.
Let her make the decision. Handshakes all around – after all, they’re gentlemen. Only it’s not that easy. They spy on each other, play tricks on each other. In short instead of steering clear – it’s every man for himself and all’s fair in love and war.
Meanwhile, from Witherspoon’s perspective, it is a dream come true. Two great guys vying for her attention, her favor, and her body. What’s a girl to do? That why there’s a gal pal for her. The pal is played by Chelsea Handler, and she’s something of a potty-mouth in lieu of giving ‘advice’, as a friend should. All in good fun of course.
Things escalate as they always do in rom/coms. Of course, there’s stuff from the office that keeps popping up. The guy that got away in (ahem) Hong Kong is now in (ahem) LA and he’s pretty angry. He’s got a score to settle with our two spooks.
So the film is about one girl juggling boyfriends, two guys playing at keeping your enemies close, and two guys who are competing with their best friend and so forth. Pretty well done if you ask me. But not a perfect rom/com either.
Not the smoothest of endings. And you’ll have to suspend disbelief often. But a lively and foot-tapping sound track makes it sound terrific. The two of them are top notch in their chosen profession, and Reese as Lisa – works through to a decision despite her best friend’s advice.
The crowd enjoyed the film – lots of laughter in the last two thirds. As I said above, the film opened with an action sequence that took place in not Hong Kong. So it took a while after that to get everything set up. The first third was slow but after that the film took off. The film had a semi-schedule. Each of them would have a date, then an action sequence would play. Super fast editing made you need to catch a rest – so the dating would start up again. Then some intimate heavy breathing and so forth. And another round of ‘dirty tricks’.
Let’s talk about the rating. Though well above average, the film had a slow start. Angela Bassett was on board as the boy’s boss and she had about six lines. So I felt she was wasted as in underused. There were the associates down at the CIA field office, ex-boyfriends with their new girlfriends, ex-wives, a grandmother, a kid, a karate class, even an airlines cabin attendant showed up for a ‘layover’. Maybe a few too many speaking parts.
Besides all those added characters who popped in, usually unexpectedly, often unnecessarily – there were Automobile chases, Automatic weapons galore, and Apartments to die for. Seemed like they didn’t miss a thing. Only they did. Read on.
The lowered rating stems from a weak start and a weak decision making scene. Everything in between was entertaining. But the film was a bit one-sided. Boys will boys and all that is okay as long as the playing field is level. But here, it isn’t quite level. Despite her top billing, Reese seemingly plays 2nd fiddle to the twosome. And within the two-some, Tuck does his best to be a good sport about everything, but I can’t say the same about FDR. So this film comes away with a Triple B rating – it’s short of being called top-notch. Three point seven five is the numeric. Is it worth your time – for sure as I do recommend the film. Is it entertaining ? Yup. But is it all that it could be? Not really – and that readers, is what I call the ‘Director’s blindspot’. Oh yes – that missing ingredient ? Equality of characters. You’ll understand after you see it.