Today, a pretty bad movie opens about two CIA agents (Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) that use government resources to spy on an unsuspecting woman (Reese Witherspoon) who, unfortunately for her and our society, has captured the hearts of both of these agents. The name of this movie is This Means War. The plot of this movie is so preposterous that Movieline's Alison Willmore (you can read her vitriol-fueled review here) and myself thought an obsessive chat was definitely in order. (Spoiler alerts, obviously.)
Mike: As a human female, were you flattered or offended that these two CIA agents would risk the security of the United States while trying to court Reese Witherspoon?
Alison: Hah! Well, theoretically it'd be flattering to have two attractive semi-suave guys going to such lengths to win a girl's love, the film takes its concept to such uncomfortable length -- the shameless misuse of government resources is almost secondary to the crazy invasion of privacy.
Mike: Which leads to a Patriot Act joke.
Alison: Of course. At what point did you feel uncomfortable about how far they were taking things? For me the line was when the group of techs watched her have sex.
Mike: I felt uncomfortable WAY before that. When Tuck first tracks FDR and Lauren on their first date, I felt weird. Like, "You know, I want to like Tom Hardy. But that's weird." Oh, I should point out, Chris Pine's name is "FDR," for some reason.
Alison: And Tom Hardy's is "Tuck."
Mike: Then again, the director's name is "McG."
Alison: So I was willing to buy into the surveillance to a point -- I mean, the film goes through a lot of convolutions to get to a few jokes, like Tom Hardy shooting Chris Pine with a tranquilizer dart. But it does get into creepy, invasive territory pretty quickly. Though, that doesn't seem to bother Reese Witherspoon as much as the revelation that the two know each other. Also, what did you think of the film's conception of the CIA? It's weird even by pop culture standards. They seem to do a whole lot of assassinations.
Mike: And work in a really lavish office with a lot of electronic maps and lights.
Alison: And have Angela Bassett around just to walk by and look stern.
Mike: Matt Patches brought this up, but when FDR first meets Lauren, it's over a discussion about Hitchcock films. Is that McG's way of saying, "Hey, I know movies, guys"?
Alison: It's a weird way of her proving herself worthy of his attention -- and of course he returns the favor by taking her on a date that's a douchebag version of a scene from Goodfellas.
Mike: That's the perfect way to describe that scene. Instead of a classy restaurant that we enter in through the kitchen, instead, let's have our character just circumvent the line at the front door, then get a table set up at the last second in-between the club dancing scene kids and the bar. What's the point? What's the point of that scene? And she then hates FDR for it.
Alison: But decides she likes him when he helps her make her ex jealous.
Mike: Of course.
Alison: What's strange about the romantic dilemma of the film is that it seems skewed toward the conclusion a skeezy guy would pick -- of course she'd want the ladies man with all the practiced lines, and not the sensitive (but hot and tattooed) guy.
Mike: FDR did like Titanic.
Alison: And also CHiPS.
Mike: And Sade.
Alison: Yes! What is up with this movie's cultural references?
Mike: There are a lot of them. I mean, we actually SEE clips from Titanic.
Alison: And we hear "Me So Horny" more than once. Maybe this movie is a period piece? This movie is as much bromance as romance, but did you buy FDR and Tuck's friendship at all? For a while I thought they were supposed to be related, when they went to that garden party together.
Mike: I was thinking the same thing! In real life, these two would never be friends. Then again, when someone saves your life time after time, I guess odd friendships can form. Here's the oddest scene for me: Tuck and FDR both, separately, but at the same time, break into Lauren's house -- while Lauren is at home cooking -- and install cameras and listening devices without her noticing. And the movie wants us to root that Tuck and FDR aren't noticed. I mean, are we supposed to accept, "Well, they are handsome, so, who cares that this is creepy?"
Alison: Pretty sure the answer is yes. And yet, despite being so handsome and suave, they're such disasters with the ladies that both require whole teams of surveillance experts to help them out.
Mike: When did the surveillance teams figure out this wasn't a "secret mission" like they were told. Or did they ever?
Alison: It felt like pretty early on they figured it out, but I suppose they don't have a lot going on, actually international, intrigue-wise, in LA.
Mike: Why didn't someone report FDR or Tuck? I feel like a real agent would report these two knuckleheads.
Alison: I feel like a real agent would realize this is some kind of dystopic, 1984-style future. Can we talk about Tom Hardy, and how much I like him, and how not good a fit he is for this film? He looks like a guy who'd beat you up -- in a charming way, quite possibly, but still! He looks so uncomfortable in a romantic comedy, particularly as the sensitive, more passive one
Mike: Apparently Sam Worthington was supposed to play that role, but dropped out.
Alison: That makes more sense -- the film keeps setting him up to play backup to Pine's character, but that seems implausible -- he seems like he'd take Pine out pretty easily.
Mike: Were you surprised that, in the end, the movie actually makes Lauren choose? I feel that, usually, this type of movie ends with, "I choose myself," or something. Then the next scene is the three of them at a picnic together -- and then we realize that she's now an agent, too.
Alison: Right. And they both are still pursuing her off into the sunset. I didn't expect her to pick one of them, no. I will admit: I did not see that coming.
Alison: Me neither -- and she picks what, at least by old rom-com rules, is the wrong one!
Mike: I know! I was shocked! And I love how it was set up: choose one or be crushed by an SUV.
Alison: It was like the end of a sitcom episode, where characters decide who gets to keep a dog by calling it from opposite sides of the room.
Mike: Only the dog would be crushed to death if it didn't respond quickly enough.
Alison: Fortunately, it would have the benefit of slow motion in which to make the decision.
Mike: Chelsea Handler. I love that the film thinks it's funny, during a high-speed car chase, to send the car she's driving flying off into a pond. Something that would immediately kill a human.
Alison: Yes! That's a solution! I've never watched her show, so I can't speak to her comedy playing herself, but every moment she was on screen was like nails on a chalkboard.
Mike: And it was Tom Hardy that caused this! The good guys thought, "Let's shoot out her tires and send her flying into a pond, because that will be safer for her." I'm not even kidding. That was the thought process.
Alison: Also, it was the solution to her not being able to just... stop the car and pull over? At that point there wasn't a reason for any of the bad guys to keep chasing her, they'd pulled Reese out of the car already.
Mike: Right. They couldn't just motion, "Drive that way, Chelsea Handler -- maybe call for help if you have time." If you had to be called one name for the rest of your life, would it be "Tuck," "McG," or "FDR?" I'd choose "Tuck." It reminds me of Innerspace.
Alison: I wonder what it's short for.
Alison: I'd choose McG. It sounds like a fast food! So, to sum things up, this is a film about two violent sociopaths wooing a product tester using teams of surveillance experts to discover her favorite artist. Romantic! And as movies go -- it's pretty insane, and not in a fun way, just in a you-might-murder-me way.
Alison Wilmore is a contributor to AV Club and Movieline. You can follow her on Twitter.
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for "Wired" Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, "New York" Magazine and Movieline. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.