Movie Review: “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

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There’s nothing inherently wrong with treating that semi-campy 1960s TV spy series “The Man from U.N.C.L.E” as a lark, and the two agents in it as the original “Ambigiously Gay Duo.”
But Guy “Sherlock Holmes” Ritchie doesn’t have the touch in this miscast, comically thin and cutesie spy caper comedy.
It’s filled with a Who’s Who of “Not Quite Made Its,” from Henry Cavill (a middling Superman) to Armie Hammer (funnier here than as The Lone Ranger). The wonderful Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina,” “Testament of Youth”) shows no flair for comedy as “the love interest, and no credibility as a tough cookie.
And not a dime was spent on villains, leaving a gaping chasm in the middle of this slow-footed romp through ’60s spy games.
Cavill is American thief turned spy Napoleon Solo, forced to join forces with his Soviet counterpart, Ilya Kuryakin, to foil some ex-Nazis trying to get their hands on The Bomb.
First, they have to “meet cute,” though. Solo must help the daughter of a scientist (Vikander) escape from East Berlin, with Kuryakin, referred to as “a giant” by his peers, “The Red Peril” by Solo, trying to stop them.
It’s 1963, post-Missile Crisis, a time of hats and trench coats and the finest clunker cars the former Soviet bloc could muster.
Kuryakin must pose as Gaby, the girl’s, fiance, and hide his mad dog fighting skills. Or “skeels.”
“Ees not the Russian way,” he purrs, avoiding fights as the conspirators “test” him to make sure he is who he says he is — “Soviet architect.”
Solo, given a nice perfectly coiffed deadpan by Cavill, is nicknamed “Cowboy,” but has little funny to say — save for the scattered bits of sexual innuendo.
“I’ll take the top!”
“I’ll be the BOTTOM!”
Elizabeth Debicki is the female second tier mastermind for the Forces of Evil, and like Vikander, is supermodel thin and yet supposed to be tough and scary.
A torture scene comes off well, Hugh Grant is on-the-nose as the Brit who intervenes in all this Russo-American cooperation. Jared Harris (a feeble Moriarty in Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes”) is the CIA boss whose Cold Warrior ethos he sums up in a sentence.
“Inside every Kraut is an AMERICAN tryin’ to get out!”
But the laughs are too few and the tone just a tad off. Ritchie tries to cover the dead spots by filling the soundtrack with obscure ’60s Europop and a point-missing cover of Gene McDaniels’ scalding jazz protest tune, “Compared to What?” Ritchie’s narrow field of view is exacerbated by his all-British (save for Hammer, Vikander) casting.
It’s not so much bad as dull and ill-conceived. It doesn’t so much end as sputter out.
And dropped in the dead zone of August, “U.N.C.L.E” doesn’t harken a new franchise either. We say “Uncle” long before Ritchie does.

2stars1

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity | See all certifications

Cast: Henry Cavill, Alicia Vikander, Armie Hammer, Hugh Grant,Elizabeth Debicki
Credits: Directed by Guy Ritchie, script by Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram. A Warner Brothers release.

Running time: 1:56

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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3 Responses to Movie Review: “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

  1. Normandywells says:

    yeah-casting two guys who have limited acting chops was a big mistake-this wont do well…

  2. mmorgan_87@gmail.com says:

    All British cast? Alicia Vikander is Swedish. I saw this the other day at a pre-screening at thought it was brilliant – and Cavill and Hammer had great chemistry. Perhaps Normandywells should actually watch the movie before writing it off ^

  3. Star rating seems to be missing from the end of this one.

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