Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hardy, Chris Pine, Chelsea Handler, Rosemary Harris and Til Schweiger.
Running Time: 98 mins.
Seen At: Didsbury
On: Sunday, 4th March, 2012
Over the last few years, there seems to have been a real market for action films or comedies with a slant on competitive love, ever since Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie teamed up for the catalyst that sparked their real-life romance in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. We’ve had Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl living in a hitman-peppered suburbia in the very funny and underrated Killers, Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise in Knight and Day, Helen Mirren firing machine-guns galore in R.E.D. (Retired, extremely dangerous), and finally, Angelina again, teaming up with Johnny Depp in The Tourist.
Now, the director known only as McG (known for the Hollywood remake of Charlie’s Angels), provides us with the action-comedy love-triangle scenario, in a premise that’s uniquely designed to appeal equally, to both men and women.
The women can enjoy the presence of the two good-looking males, whilst also relating to Reese’s dilemma of having to choose between them, whilst the men admire the rough-and tumble spectacle of all the guns and action sequences – and Reese Witherspoon’s sunny, optimistic spirit radiates throughout any film she’s in.
It’s interesting, but nothing new of course, that two or more spy movies are out at the box-office at the same time. We have the rather gritty, and at times hard-hitting Safe House with Denzel Washington, and at the other end of the spectrum, there’s this – glossy, commercial, populist cinema, that’s funny, purely entertaining and to make a refreshing change from heavier fair, absolutely nonintellectual, and just fun to watch.
I’ve always loved spies and secret agents as a genre in film. From frothy, glamorous fantastical blockbusters like this is, such as the Bond franchise or Mission: Impossible and Spy Kids, but it’s wonderful to see it rise to such a prominent level of acclaim, both critically and with audiences thanks to the electrifying Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy last year.
Incidentally, the best performance in this film by far, comes from the absolutely terrific Tom Hardy, who played a secret-agent of a completely different sort, Ricki Tarr in Tinker, Tailor. During publicity, Hardy expressed his interest in wanting to star in a lighter film, in contrast to the serious, heavy roles with which he’s associated.
The basic premise is quite simple. Two highly skilled but impulsive cops FDR and Tuck (Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) find themselves confined the office after compromising a mission (cue an energetic opener full of sharp one-liners and a flurry of gunfire).
They run into Lauren (Witherspoon) who decides to get back into the dating game, one for the cops to discover they’ve both been dating her, only for their competitive streak to come to fruition, as they strike a deal not to inform the lovely Lauren that they know each other…
The action sequences are full of pep, but are only shown in fairly short bursts, which mean they’re engaging – whilst never allowed to become fully exhilarating…
The majority of the comedy comes from chat-show host Chelsea Handler as Lauren’s logical best friend, particularly in the scenes when she asks Lauren to attempt to choose between her prospective boyfriends by listing their flaws.
It’s the caper, the parodying and referencing of many Hitchcockian moments that I found the most interesting aspect. Pine at one stage mentions The Lady Vanishes, and, similarly to The Tourist, it seems appropriate to say that the closest film I can liken this to, even though it doesn’t quite live up to it is the great 1959 triumph – North By Northwest, with a similar mixture of comedy-caper, romance and thriller.
The thriller sub-plot doesn’t really develop, but there is a very charismatic, if underused, turn from Til Schweiger as the menacing villain.
At its heart, this is a highly enjoyable, mainstream, Hollywood, glitzy star-vehicle for Witherspoon, Hardy and Pine, who all really appear to be relishing in the fun that’s to be had.
It’s often amusing, loud, and colourful popcorn fodder.
Rating: * * * *