Agents in love

An at­trac­tive cast can’t do much with this dullsville ac­tion com­edy, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

LET’S BE­GIN with a mi­nor beef. About a third of the way into this largely use­less spy com­edy, Reese Wither­spoon, play­ing a smart sin­gle­ton, dis­cusses Al­fred Hitch­cock with Chris Pine’s cube-headed se­cret agent. He has rec­om­mended The Lady Van­ishes. She coun­ters that any­thing the di­rec­tor made from the late 1950s un­til 1972 is su­pe­rior to that early film.

Are you bloody crazy? You’re say­ing that Topaz and Torn Cur­tain are both bet­ter than The Lady Van­ishes? You, madam, be­long in a zoo.

Any­way, these are the sorts of things that go through your head when you’re try­ing to stay awake dur­ing an ex­tended MCG trailer. That eco­nom­i­cally named di­rec­tor has long had a rep­u­ta­tion for edit­ing his films with un­re­strained vigour. But, on this oc­ca­sion, the movie re­ally does play like a 90-minute promo for it­self.

Bathed in bright plas­tic colours, scored to sleazy jazz funk, This Mean­swar com­prises end­less short scenes that never quite co­a­lesce into a real mo­tion picture. It is, to be fair, quite a good trailer. If I hadn’t al­ready seen Mr Mcg’s com­edy I would be greatly look­ing for­ward to its im­mi­nent re­lease.

Pine and Tom Hardy play two tough CIA op­er­a­tives. In the open­ing min­utes, they cause some sort of in­ap­pro­pri­ate may­hem and – in a scene that sug­gests a par­ody of a par­ody – are forced to en­dure a tongue-lash­ing from an­gry boss An­gela Bas­sett. Busted to ad­ja­cent desk jobs, the pals now have time to com­pete for the at­ten­tions of Ms Wither­spoon.

What ex­actly is this film’s sup­posed USP? The es­pi­onage stuff is, for the first hour any­way, buried so deeply in the un­der­growth that Hardy and Pine might as well be land­scape gar­den­ers. Wither­spoon’s char­ac­ter is drawn straight from My Big Book of Doris Day Con­ven­tions. The sub­plot about evil Euro­peans would seem per­func­tory in a videogame.

But wait a mo­ment. There is def­i­nitely some­thing in­ter­est­ingly odd go­ing on be­tween Pine (re­laxed) and Hardy (mis­cast). They’re so scrupu­lously tidy. They visit el­derly ladies to­gether. They chat end­lessly on the phone. One can’t help re­sent­ing this shov­elchinned woman’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to break up such a lovely cou­ple.

For good­ness sake. She can’t even tell good Hitch from bad Hitch.

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