Brian Henry Martin at the movies

Critics v Audiences

Published Thursday, 08 March 2012
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What do Sex And The City 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and the new action rom-com This Means War have in common?

Yes, that's right, they are all loathed by the critics and loved by the audiences.

I have never been in a movie screening that had such a divided reaction as This Means War; on one side film critics moaning and groaning from start to finish, on the other a young audience laughing and cheering through every scene.

I, on this occasion, began filled with scorn alongside my fellow film reviewers, then crossed the house, to leave at the end full of admiration for a dippy movie that provoked such extreme reactions.

This Means War stars Chris Pine (Star Trek) and Tom Hardy (Inception) as two dashing and deadly CIA agents, inseparable partners and best friends until they fall for the same woman, Reece Witherspoon (Walk The Line). What follows is a high speed action packed love triangle with spy battling spy with an endless array of high-tech gadgetry. The sexy young leads perform both stunts and gags with gusto in a very tailored 97 minutes, so there is simply no time to be bored.

Director McG (real name Joseph McGinity Nicol) previous films include Charlie's Angels, and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. And like those two vivacious chick flicks, This Means War never takes itself too seriously, unlike most morose reviewers of new movies.

So why have film critics, not only at home but across the world reacted so badly to This Means War, which is after all a sure fire hit? For me, the answer is simple - genre. The action rom-com has film reviewers everywhere spitting bullets before the credits even roll. A succession of truly dreadful movies has made any new film in this critically unpleasing genre to be avoided.

Previous action rom-coms include the woeful Knight and Day starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, the appalling Mr and Mrs Smith starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and the atrocious The Bounty Hunter starring Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston. For comedy action romance, read silly, corny nonsense. But it would seem that audiences do not agree as all these films were box office successes.

So what is the point of film critics? They are a miserable lot, sharpening their cynical minds to merely find fault in our favourite films. A bunch of elitist curmudgeons spoiling our mainstream cinema entertainment preferring instead to champion obscure arthouse bores.

Well, the truth is, film critics are film fans first and foremost. I love reviewing films because I love going to the cinema. I still get excited when the lights slowly dim and the fanfare of studio logos appear on the big screen. Of course, not every film can be Citizen Kane and would we really want to watch Citizen Kane every week? No, sometimes we want to leave our brains at the door and simply laugh, cry and be thrilled.

For me one of the most important parts of any cinema experience is at the end of the evening, when garnering reaction: "Loved it" 'Hated it" "Total Nonsense" "Best Film Ever". Whatever the audience response, there is nothing better than sitting down with friends and debating the merits or misdemeanours of the movie you have just seen.

For that reason alone, This Means War is worth seeing. I may not have laughed that much in the cinema but I certainly did afterwards as my fellow film critics lambasted what they believed to be an abomination. For me, less so, as I left my brain still sitting at the cinema door to enjoy, what for many will be a rollicking good night out.

This Means War (Cert 12a) is currently on general release.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.


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