THIS MEANS WAR. A fail in Tom Hardy’s filmography

There are dozens of better romantic comedies and spy movie parodies.

Radosław Pisula

13 December 2023

The director, known as McG, returned to the cinema three years after the premiere of Terminator: Salvation – a film that received a massive wave of criticism and is still considered an unwanted child in the history of machine rebellion. The creator decided to take a break from high-budget sci-fi cinema for now and returned to his roots. So, the war, like the two earlier parts of Charlie’s Angels he directed, is a specific parody of spy movies, seasoned with a dense, romantic sauce. Unfortunately, just like in the case of films about the sexy trio, here too the ingredients that could have made a really good cinematic dough turned into a bland mess.

The plot of the film is extremely simple. We meet two spies who are also best friends but have diametrically different personalities. One day, under different circumstances, they meet the same woman. Making a gentleman’s agreement, they decide not to get in each other’s way and leave the decision about choosing a partner to her, of course, without informing her beforehand that they know each other. However, with the technical support of the spy organization and their own training, the characters quickly break the earlier agreement and do everything to win. Additionally, in the background, there is an international terrorist who has rubbed both of them the wrong way.

The film is advertised as a romantic comedy combined with an action movie. Unfortunately, the romance presented in This Means War is a culmination of the simplest clichés known from this type of cinema. McG is an incredibly average director, and it reflects in every element of the film. The love story is played out by the book, and the resolution of the entire plot is known to us within minutes. The film doesn’t even try to surprise the viewer – the creators probably hope that well-worn formulas alone will be enough to keep the audience glued to the screen. Unfortunately, for the film, cinema has been around for over a century, and some things are already worn out to the limit. Only the action scenes are quite enjoyable, and only they remind us that the main characters are professionals in their field, as the rest of their spy activities in the film are limited to spying on their opponent on technologically advanced computers.

However, the above issues wouldn’t be so annoying if there was visible chemistry in the male-female relationships. Unfortunately, there is no such feeling here. Reese Witherspoon lacks the charm, character, or sex appeal for the audience to believe that two spies with the appearance of Versace models would fight over her and put their friendship on the line. The female cast is completely let down by Chelsea Handler in the role of the main character’s friend – a poorly written character that seems to be taken straight from some part of American Pie and instead of stealing scenes from the protagonists (which is usually the role of friends in American comedies), only evokes a sense of embarrassment and even disgust in one scene. The most value among the female cast – ironically – is brought by Angela Bassett in the supporting role of the protagonists’ boss.

It is the men who are the brightest points of this production. Although the roles they have to play are heavily constrained by convention and a weak script, Tom Hardy and Chris Pine simply exude charisma. They try to portray their characters in their own way. Hardy interestingly combines the appearance of a tough guy with the gentle character of his character (a great paintball scene), and Pine plays with how his physique is perceived, creating his character as a narcissistic lightweight. Watching the clashes of these very different characters is enjoyable, and it’s a pity that this film wasn’t turned into a buddy comedy about two well-trained agents, because all the on-screen chemistry, lacking in the romantic plot, accumulates between Hardy and Pine. And it is from their interactions that all the moments that make you smile result. It’s a shame that such a flop lands in Hardy’s incredibly solid filmography.

There are dozens of better romantic comedies and spy movie parodies. The film is more annoying than funny, and that kills it as a comedy. It’s just unnecessary, and the time spent on it by the main actors could have been used for much better things.