Male leads a let-down in 'This Means War'

All’s fair in love and war for two US government spies with their hearts set on the same woman in an action-packed comedy from director McG.

Scripted by Simon Kinberg and Timothy Dowling, this hare-brained buddy movie delivers slam-bang thrills and a few sparkling one-liners as rivalry between the two elite operatives escalates out of control, resulting in amusing abuses of CIA resources.

‘This Means War’ starts with a bang and McG knows how to bolt together explosive sequences that quicken the pulse.

However, comic interludes don’t always hit their target and the voyeuristic nature of the men’s surveillance leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, especially when they resort to documenting entanglements in the bedroom.

Crucially, the film’s inherent design flaw – like the heroine, we have to side with one of her suitors – means half the audience will be disappointed by the overblown climax when the love-struck lady makes her choice.

The girl gets her guy, but is it the right one?

The film opens with a fast-paced action sequence in Hong Kong, where agents FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are on assignment to apprehend crimelord Heinrich (Til Schweiger).

Instructions from their boss Collins (Angela Bassett) to be discreet are gleefully ignored, leading to a high-profile shootout.

The buddies return to HQ to face the music.

To lighten the mood, ladies’ man FDR helps shy and gallant Tuck to dip his toes back into the dating pool by creating a flattering profile for his friend on a relationships website.

Soon after, Tuck accepts a first date with Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), a beautiful consumer testing manager, who is recovering from a break-up from her sweetheart (Warren Christie).

Tuck is instantly smitten.

Soon after the date, FDR also encounters Lauren and he falls for her acidic wit.

Armed with a dazzling array of hi-tech gadgetry, FDR and Tuck compete against each other to win Lauren’s heart.

She is torn between the two men, unaware they know each other, and seeks advice from her potty-mouthed sister Trish (Chelsea Handler), who counsels, “Don’t choose the better guy. Choose the guy who makes you the better girl.”

‘This Means War’ plays to Witherspoon’s strengths as a comic actress, placing her at the centre of some elaborately staged set pieces, unaware her two handsome suitors are best buddies.

Alas, Hardy struggles to find his comic timing to soften his bruising hard man image, while Pine mugs shamelessly.

Thank goodness for Handler, scene-stealing with gusto as the saucy sibling, who dishes out filthy words of wisdom during her own love-making.

While Lauren ultimately falls under one paramour’s spell, we ultimately fail to be wooed by McG’s slick film.

It’s flash bang without an emotional wallop.

Star Rating: 2½

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