For years I’ve maintained that there’s something uniquely topsy-turvy and perverse about the way the movie industry processes talent. The career of Tom Hardy, one of the stars of This Means War, illustrates the paradox perfectly.
So often a performer comes to the attention of Hollywood by doing exceptional work in modestly budgeted or independent productions. Hardy distinguished himself in pictures such as Layer Cake (2004) and RocknRolla (2008). In Bronson (2008), he was brilliant. He hit it out of the park. And that’s the thing: Tinseltown uses this level of the business as the equivalent of a farm team.
But here’s the upside-down part: The reward for having enough talent to make it to the big leagues is, more often than not, big bucks and an opportunity to star in movies that have absolutely zero use for brilliance. It’s like getting recruited by the Yankees and then being paid to play tiddlywinks.
Something that would no doubt prove more entertaining to watch than anything Hardy or costar Chris Pine is asked to do in this spectacularly razzworthy misfire of a romantic comedy. You’re not going to believe how moronic, misguided and just plain pervy this picture is. Get this:
Tuck (Hardy) and FDR (Pine) are CIA agents who work out of the agency’s field office in Los Angeles. The partners in international crime fighting have been grounded for blowing up too many people in what was supposed to be a covert op in Hong Kong. This means they have plenty of taxpayer-subsidized time to sit at their facing desks and shoot the breeze. Incredibly, these conversations lead to Pine suggesting that Hardy try looking for love through an online dating service.
Enter Reese Witherspoon as Lauren, a product tester for a consumer publication. Coincidentally, she’s looking for love, too, and her best friend, a bawdy stay-at-home mom played by Chelsea Handler, signs her up with the same online matchmaker. Since the two buds are virtually inseparable, FDR is not far away when Tuck goes on his inevitable first date with Lauren. At its conclusion, she bumps into and falls for his friend, too, thereby raising the age-old rom-com question: What’s a young woman to do when she’s equally attracted to two men?
What the movie’s really about, unfortunately, is what two spies do when they’re in love with the same woman, and it’s not pretty. They don’t tell her they’re friends. They bug her home. They eavesdrop on her postdate analysis with Handler. They divert millions of dollars’ worth of sophisticated surveillance equipment to monitor her movement 24/7, even assigning other agents to watch her when they can’t. Eww. I felt queasy during a scene where one of these other agents hands Hardy a video they’ve recorded of Witherspoon having sex with Pine the previous night. Correct me if I’m off base here, but doesn’t this sort of thing cross a fairly significant line?
I’m not sure what director McG (Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle) thought was hilarious about hunky spooks violating the privacy of an unsuspecting woman as part of a cretinous contest to win her heart. I certainly can’t imagine what’s supposed to qualify as romance in any of this, unless you count the beyond-bromance banter between Tuck and FDR (and what’s with the names?). I lost count of the times each operative says, “I love you, man” to the other. So what kind of romantic comedy does that leave us?
The kind that succeeds in reducing an actor as brilliant as Hardy to playing a boneheaded peeping Tom.
* Running time: 98 min.
* Rated: PG-13
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