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The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Genre Action
 
Review:

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is now a Guy Ritchie film adaptation of the cult TV series of the same name, which ran from 1964 to 1968. Ian Fleming contributed to the show's concept by suggesting a TV-friendly version of James Bond, which became Napoleon Solo. While Solo was intended to be the main focus, Illya Kuryakin's unexpected popularity led him to become a co-star. This pairing is resurrected by Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer for the 2015 movie, in which they're recruited to thwart a nuclear weapon plot.

Cavill's take on Solo is schmarmy. Instead of simply being charming and sophisticated with a weakness for beautiful women, essentially a Bond Lite, he's got a Mad Men affectation, aiming for Jon Hamm complexity and parachuting into John Stamos country. While consistent and easy-on-the-eye, it's yet another robotic performance, lacking genuine charm, weight and warmth.

He stars opposite Armie Hammer, playing a character intended to be his antithesis. While Hammer was a double-vision presence in The Social Network, he's also poised similarly to Cavill - blessed with film star looks but still in search of a signature performance to anchor his career. Unfortunately, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. will not be that role, as Hammer also doesn't seem fully geared toward action or comedy.

That's the problem with Guy Ritchie's The Man from U.N.C.L.E. While it looks stylish, sophisticated and sexy... it lacks substance and is too cold-blooded to appease fans of the original series or lure new recruits. As spy-fi, it never really gives you the wink to say this is an action, comedy or both. While it aspires to a Mr. & Mrs. Smith tone with Alicia Vikander chiming in from time-to-time, we never feel in on the joke and the action is lethargic to non-existent.

Everything about The Man from U.N.C.L.E. feels decidedly vanilla. The only inspired bit of casting comes in the form of Hugh Grant, who's undersold, and while everyone looks like movie stars... we're constantly waiting for someone with real film star quality to show up. The generic nuclear warheads and a makeshift United Nations type secret service story is uninspired and while they hint at a buddy movie, the competitive chemistry doesn't generate the spark this movie so desperately needed.

Guy Ritchie thought he could pull a Tarantino, harnessing spaghetti Western influences and trying to revive two stars whose careers have failed to launch, at least in terms of critical acclaim. While it's a valiant effort, it recalls Michael Mann's take on Miami Vice, where even the noblest intentions weren't enough to give the film real substance and clout. The end result is that they lean heavily on style and production values to distract us from a thin story, flat characters and numb performances.

If you focus on the film's superficial qualities and don't scratch below the surface, you'll survive. You'll know when you should laugh, you'll know when you should be exhilarated and your eyes will be constantly engaged. There may not be an honest moment in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but avoid scratching the surface and things will go just swimmingly.

The bottom line: Pretty

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