Man from U.N.C.L.E., TheReviewed By alejandroariera
Posted 08/12/15 10:58:02
Can’t Guy Ritchie leave well enough alone? First, he turns the greatest literary sleuth into a bipolar, boxing loving, pistol wielding, hyperactive manchild. And now, he grabs one of the best TV series to come out of the whole “spy craze” of the 60s and turns it into a bland, humorless, equally hyperactive reboot of those shows and movies, even when others, from the Austin Powers trilogy to the brutal nihilistic shenanigans of “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” have done a far better job paying tribute and lovingly mocking the legacy of James Bond, Matt Helm and their brethren, including “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”’s very own Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin.Airing on NBC from 1964-68, the original “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” featured an international counter-espionage agency that constantly locked horns with terror organization T.H.R.U.S.H. Its two top agents were the aforementioned Solo and Kuryakin, played by the debonair Robert Vaughn and the quietly nonchalant David McCallum (better known to NCIS fans as Donald “Ducky” Mallard). Week after week they saved the world from an outrageous doom-laden plot. The series was sometimes as tongue-in-cheek and had as much flair as the Bond films it tried to emulate and for good reason: Ian Fleming contributed concepts and Napoleon Solo’s name to the series. Currently airing on the Me-TV network, the series may be a tad dated, but it still is fun.
Alas, the same cannot be said of Ritchie’s take on the series. First of all, we are dealing with yet another origin story of how these two super spies met; U.N.C.L.E. is not even mentioned until the final minutes and Waverly, the British head of the organization (Hugh Grant in full phlegmatic mode), makes one or two fleeting appearances. As conceived by Ritchie and Lionel Wigram, Solo (Superman himself, Henry Cavill; what is it with Ritchie casting actors who have played superheroes for his take on beloved pop icons?) is a former burglar recruited by the C.I.A. and Kuryakin (Armie Hammer a.k.a. The Lone Ranger, although I doubt if he wants to be reminded of that fiasco) is the KGB’s top deadly agent. As the film opens, Solo arrives in East Germany to extract feisty and attractive car mechanic Gabby Teller (a wasted Alicia Vikander) whose father happens to be Hitler’s favorite rocket boy and is now in hiding; turns out that Kuryakin has also been ordered by his superiors to catch the girl. A fantastic, gritty, car chase down the streets of East Germany ending in an equally audacious stunt over the Berlin Wall ensues.
Back in the West, Solo is told by his handler that he must join forces with Kuryakin to stop Gabby’s grandfather and the Italian magnate he is working for from building and detonating an atom bomb. Why this magnate —a beautiful woman named Victoria who seems to have walked out of a photo shoot for Vogue— wants to drop the bomb is never clearly explained. Never mind the reasons why, off our trio goes to Rome to chase after the grandfather and Victoria to stop their world ending plans. And really, as far as plot is concerned, that’s it. Because, for the rest of the film, Ritchie and his production team are far more concerned with recreating a far more glamorous era than in building a coherent, fun film.
As in Ritchie’s two “Sherlock Holmes” films, Solo and Kuryakin are portrayed as a bickering married couple. But whereas the scenes between Downey as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson were the one thing worth recommending about the two films (I still prefer “Game of Shadows” over the original “Sherlock Holmes”), you can’t say the same about Cavill’s and Hammer’s scenes together. They may look good on the big screen but both lack the charisma and sense of humor that Vaughn and McCallum brought to these characters. They were one of the reasons why viewers would tune in week after week to watch “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” Had Cavill and Hammer been of age and had been cast when the show originally aired, it would have lasted a full season only.
The film isn’t even sexy. Cavill tries to out-Bond Connery in his one big seduction scene with Victoria but comes across as a dilettante, a wannabe. And the sequence where Gaby tries to capture Kuryakin’s attention by dancing in her pijamas and then wrestling Illya to the ground is amusing yet mirthless.
The action sequences are shot and edited with Ritchie’s trademark frantic pace. The camera zooms in and out from one point to another in the action; shots are repeated and explained as if the public had never seen an action film before.
Except for that opening sequence, they are pretty forgettable. Doesn’t help either that Ritchie fills the film’s entire running time with music, whether it be tidbits from Ennio Morricone’s scores for spaghetti westerns to era-appropriate tunes and Daniel Pemberton’s original score. Ritchie never knows when enough is enough. A jackhammer is far more subtle.Comparing “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” to the far superior and more fun “Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation” or even its predecessors would be a waste of time and words. Suffice it to say that Ritchie still has a lot to learn from Christopher McQuarrie, Brad Bird, J.J. Abrams, John Woo and Brian de Palma.
|© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.|