BLU-RAY REVIEW: This Means War
Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy in new comedy actioner...
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McG is the sort of director movie goers either enjoy, or don't. Beginning as a music video director and producer, McG became more widely known in 2000 when he directed the Charlie's Angels relaunch. Later, he directed the film's sequel, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. Taking a break from the comedy action genre, the filmmaker delivered the drama We Are Marshall in 2006 and the sci-fi prequel Terminator: Salvation in 2009. Last year, McG returned to the director's seat and unleashed another comedy action film - This Means War - on the movie-going masses. Now, This Means War is available on home video and, while it has its ups and downs, it's a rather entertaining movie that'll keep most moviegoers laughing and entertained.
The film's premise is simple - two buds battle it out after having meet and fallen for the same woman. Of course, this set up is nothing new and it's almost a bit too cliche. However, when the two buds are partners in the CIA and the pair make a "gentleman's pact" to allow the best man to win, it's no-holds-barred fun as the pact (and tables, windows, and chairs) gets broken, feelings get muddled, and the pair declare all out war on one another. FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are the agency's top operatives and have been loyal partners and friends for years, but when Tuck finds Lauren (Witherspoon) on a dating website and takes her out and then FDR runs into Lauren and the pair coincidentally hit it off, it's a game of winner takes all as the duo use every spy trick, surveillance technique, and machismo mechanism they have at their disposal to impress upon Lauren which of them is the better man.
Again, the film isn't all that original and action comedies lately have been a bit hit and miss. Of course, Witherspoon is always cute and fun as the blonde, self-determined woman ready and willing to jump into a relationship and both Pine and Hardy are entertaining to watch as they pour on the suave and tough guy act while, at the same time, trying to show off their softer sides. Surprisingly, the best acting in the film comes from Chelsea Handler, who plays Lauren's sister Trish. Trish is the reality: a middle-aged wife and mother who's only goal is to help her baby sister find the ideal guy...and have enough sex for the both of them. Smartly written and funny in every scene she's in, Handler helps make the movie enjoyable.
The entire story features a subplot as FDR and Tuck are the targets of a well-known terrorist, Heinrich (Til Schweiger) whose brother they killed. Once Heinrich finds the pair in L.A., it's only a matter of time before - you guessed it - he kidnaps Lauren and uses her as bait. Of course, this leads to a somewhat predictable ending that's still fun, but lacks in any real surprises. Overall, This Means War is a better than average comedy action flick with some enjoyable scenes, some decent action and acting, and a fairly funny story. It's predictable and sometimes even a bit cliche but it's stays fun for the duration and will keep most moviegoers laughing and entertained.
The two-disc set includes the theatrical cut of the film on DVD as well as both the theatrical cut and the extended cut on blu-ray hi-def. The 1080p video transfer is solid, though there are visible soft spots from time to time. Likewise, the colors seem at times to be a bit over-saturated and show evidence of being digitized. Of course, none of these take away from the film's watchability and only a videophile will take any notice. The same goes for the film's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround audio track, which delivers a solid punch thanks to the action throughout. While the film is at once a romantic comedy with touchy feely emotions abound, the film has enough action to keep most guys satisfied and the soundtrack keeps this clear and in sight thanks to an assortment of special effects sounds, including bullet ricochets, explosions, silenced gunshots, explosions and more. Of course, the dialogue stands out on top of all of this and provides speech which is clear and easy to understand.
As for special features, the two-disc set includes a few: an audio commentary with director McG in which he candidly discusses the film's successes and failures; a short, 4-minute epilogue of sorts called "Bachelorette Party" which shows Lauren's girl getaway to Las Vegas; three alternate endings which include optional commentary; 15-minutes worth of deleted scenes, a 4-minute "Uncensored Gag Reel;" a 9-minute "Alternate Opening Concept;" and the film's theatrical trailer. Most of these will impress fans of the film and the most insightful by far is the director's commentary, though the gag reel has it's moments.
Overall, This Means War is less about being better and more about being different. It's not a great movie, though it is enjoyable, entertaining, funny, and fun. It's seemingly formulaic and, as previously mentioned, even cliche at times, but it's never dull or boring, which is a plus. I'm personally a fan of comedy action films and found This Means War to be better than Operation: Endgame and The Bounty Hunter but not as enjoyable as the comic book-inspired R.E.D., the Branjolina movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith, or the recent Tom Cruise movie Knight and Day.
This Means War is available on DVD and Blu-ray wherever fine home video is sold and is rated R for some sexual content.
- Jess C. Horsley